Albany is once again reeling from controversy as Joe Percoco, 49, a former aide and close friend of New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was sentenced on Thursday to six years in prison on fraud charges as well as accepting bribes. Back in March, Percoco was found guilty of accepting more than $300,000 from companies that sought influence with the Cuomo administration.
Valerie E. Caproni, the US District Judge who handed down Percoco’s sentence said that it is totally unacceptable for government employees to accept bribes to supplement their incomes. “If you do so, this court will show you no mercy,” she said.
In lieu of other recent corruption convictions of state leaders, Judge Caprioni said that she hopes this kind of sentence “will be heard in Albany.”
For Cuomo, this sentence represents a major embarrassment as it is an election year and his political future is on the line. Because corruption has plagued his administration for years now, Cuomo’s opponents point to the fact that the incumbent governor has not sufficiently addressed or remedied the proliferation of this widespread phenomenon.
The prosecution team in the case had petitioned the judge to sentence Percoco to well over five years in prison. Percoco’s defense team suggested to the judge that their client not get more than a two-year sentence.
While the governor was not specifically accused of any crime or illegalities, the testimony in the trial gave a less than complimentary view of how Cuomo’s office operates.
In a statement after the sentence was announced, Cuomo said: “Joe Percoco is paying the price for violating the public trust. And it should serve as a warning to anyone who failed to uphold his or her oath as a public servant. On a personal level, the human tragedy for Joe’s young children and family is a very sad consequence.”
In a court filing, Percoco’s lawyers wrote that his punishment has already begun, according to a Fox News report.
Percoco’s lawyer, Barry Bohrer said that it was a “difficult day in court.” He vowed to appeal.
Fox News reported that Bohrer said that “We had hoped for better. Obviously it is not the sentence we requested but it wasn’t the sentence the government requested either. Mr. Percoco is a man of strength and a man of faith. He has faith in the system and we are hopeful that our appeal will be successful.”
“The trial — which played out on the pages of virtually every newspaper and media outlet in New York — has all but destroyed Joe’s life. Joe faces impending bankruptcy and a substantial term of incarceration,” his defense team wrote, according to the Fox News report.
In court, Percoco told Caproni he wanted to “express how sorry I am for my actions.”
After the sentence was announced, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that the punishment “sends a strong message that public officials who violate their duties to faithfully serve the citizens of New York will be held accountable for their corrupt actions.”