White Collar Defense and Investigations

Winning Acquittal in a High-Profile Corruption Trial

WMHW successfully defended a development executive indicted for fraud, conspiracy, extortion, and bribery in a highly publicized federal corruption trial. The case unraveled a bribery scheme involving a top Albany political aide and executives from New York state companies hoping to secure favorable government contracts. After seven weeks of testimony and a twice-deadlocked jury, our client was the only defendant found not guilty on all counts.

In 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) indicted a top aide to the Governor of New York, Joseph Percoco, along with business leader Joseph Gerardi and his colleague, Steven Aiello, on public corruption charges. Gerardi, the general counsel and a partner of COR Development Company, was charged with bribing Percoco to cut governmental red tape and secure advantageous treatment for his company. Prosecutors alleged that Gerardi and Aiello paid out $35,000 through a shell company to Percoco to reverse a decision made by the state’s economic development agency in their favor.

Milton Williams, attorney for co-defendant Joseph Gerardi, ripped Howe as the shakiest witness imaginable. ‘Todd Howe is an individual who can’t even rely on himself,’ Williams told jurors in the case.

New York Daily News

The trial began in January 2018, with WMHW partner Milt Williams heading Gerardi’s legal team. After several weeks of testimony, Todd Howe – a former energy lobbyist and go-between for the co-defendants turned star witness for the government – was called to the stand. During a grueling cross-examination, Howe admitted that he had tried to defraud his credit card company after finalizing a cooperation agreement with the government, and was arrested later that day.

The defense team’s witness list was significantly culled by the time the trial drew to a close, banking on Howe’s arrest as a fatal flaw in the government’s case. The co-defendants’ lawyers continued to stress that Gerardi and Aiello believed the $35,000 was compensation for Howe’s services as a lobbyist in connection with financing he obtained for a new project. Milt’s closing arguments honed in on Howe’s duplicity, asserting that Gerardi was part of a “long line of people who were played like a fool” by Howe.

On March 13, 2018, Percoco and Aiello were found guilty, while Gerardi was acquitted of all charges. “I am very relieved for Mr. Gerardi and his family, but very saddened for the others who did not fare as well with today’s verdict,” Milt said in an email statement.

Media Coverage

“Former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco prepares to face jury in corruption trial, allegedly took $300G in bribes,” New York Daily News (January 22, 2018)

“Prosecutor Says Ex-Cuomo Aide Sold His Most Valuable Asset: His Job,” The New York Times (January 23, 2018)

“Percoco’s attorneys blame Howe for bribery scheme,” Politico (January 23, 2018)

“Prosecutors Portray Percoco as Willing Bribe-Taker, Defense Questions Star Witness’ Credibility,” New York Law Journal (February 27, 2018)

“Ex-Cuomo aide Percoco’s lawyers say crooked prosecution witness is reason for acquittal,” New York Daily News (February 27, 2018)

“Percoco co-defendants’ attorneys speak after verdict,” Newsday (March 13, 2018)

“Joseph Percoco, Ex-Cuomo Aide, Found Guilty in Corruption Trial,” The New York Times (March 13, 2018)