Star Witness in Trial of Former Cuomo Aide May Have Violated Terms of His Plea Deal

A key witness in the bribery trial of a former top aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have violated his cooperation agreement with prosecutors, according to evidence presented in Manhattan federal court Thursday.

Under cross-examination, the witness, Todd Howe, a longtime Cuomo associate, admitted that in the fall of 2016, after he had signed an agreement with the government that required him to avoid committing future crimes, he lied to his credit-card company.

Mr. Howe, the government’s star witness in the trial of former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, admitted that in October of that year he called his credit-card company and asked it to refund $604.86 in charges from a stay at the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel, suggesting he hadn’t stayed there and had been improperly billed.

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Six weeks earlier, in September 2016, according to his testimony and court filings, he had pleaded guilty to eight felonies as part of a deal that required him to testify truthfully and to avoid breaking the law from that point forward.

Daniel Gitner, an attorney for another defendant in the trial, presented evidence that showed that Mr. Howe had, in fact, stayed at the luxury hotel as part of a trip to meet with federal prosecutors in June 2016 in an effort to secure the plea deal.

“Do you realize that you are in violation of your cooperation agreement?” Mr. Gitner asked Mr. Howe.

“I do looking at this, yes,” Mr. Howe said, examining evidence.

“Do you think they are going to rip it up?” Mr. Gitner asked, referring to prosecutors.

“I sure hope not,” said Mr. Howe.

A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on whether Mr. Howe’s testimony on Thursday would jeopardize his cooperation agreement.

The trial has offered a window into the workings of the Cuomo administration, with current and former staffers having taken the stand. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, isn’t on trial or accused of wrongdoing.

Mr. Howe has testified that Mr. Percoco and three other defendants engaged in two bribery schemes in which Mr. Percoco was paid more than $300,000 in exchange for providing government perks to private companies. Mr. Percoco’s attorney has said the payments were for legitimate work and not in exchange for using his official position to benefit the companies.

Write to Erica Orden at erica.orden@wsj.com

Appeared in the February 9, 2018, print edition as ‘Witness May Have Violated Deal Terms.’

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