In late 2014, Joseph Percoco, a well-known and feared fixture in Albany and one of the governor’s closest confidantes, was alternately a kingmaker and a roadblock, a gatekeeper for those entering state employment and a barricade against those seeking to leave it.
What he was not, at least at the time, was a government official.
Prosecutors in the sprawling corruption trial against Mr. Percoco, a former top aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, have maintained that Mr. Percoco, in exchange for bribes, unlawfully interfered in government affairs even after leaving the state payroll.
But while their previous arguments had stemmed largely from witnesses’ anecdotes, their accusations on Thursday were bolstered by email after email, which laid bare a paper trail of Mr. Percoco’s continued influence and intervention, months after he left public service.
In particular, prosecutors showed jurors chains of messages in which Mr. Percoco — through a mix of cajoling, bargaining and outright aggression — worked both directly and behind the scenes to stall the resignations of certain staff members if he felt their departures would hamstring the governor’s agenda.
“I need you two to get Rabito on the phone and tell him to get his act together,” he wrote in a September 2014 email to two former aides after learning that a staffer, Joseph Rabito, planned to leave the administration. Mr. Percoco wrote the email about five months after he had resigned as Mr. Cuomo’s executive deputy secretary to manage the governor’s re-election campaign.
“We need to nail him down,” he said, adding that he already “took care of” two other employees who had tried to leave the executive chamber.
Mr. Percoco’s tone was distinctly different in an email to Mr. Rabito the next day, though, in which he invited him to come visit on the strength of his “devotion” to his “good friend of 20 years.”
He was also quick to challenge anyone who defended staffers’ decisions to leave the executive chamber. When Peter Cutler, an aide in the Buffalo area, signaled his intention to resign in August 2014, Howard Glaser, who had just left his post as director of state operations, seemed to justify Mr. Cutler’s choice in an email to Mr. Percoco.
“We treated him like” trash, Mr. Glaser wrote, using a more vulgar word. “He always did right thing.”
“And by ‘we’,” he added, “I don’t mean me.”
Mr. Percoco’s rebuttal was definitive. “We did not treat him” that way, he wrote. “No one ever promised him anything,” he said. “Second, he is being cute yet again. Facts matter.”
His efforts to retain staff went beyond convincing and coaxing; prosecutors have also accused him of threatening the job prospects of at least four government employees if they left against his wishes. Earlier in the trial, Seth Agata, a former counsel to Mr. Cuomo, testified that he had heard rumors of Mr. Percoco calling other employers and asking them to rescind their job offers to staffers that he wanted to keep.
Mr. Percoco also appeared to leverage his influence in the government to offer concrete incentives to stay: namely, pay raises and new job titles.
“Thank you for the 10 percent increase in pay that you facilitated. I appreciate your efforts and friendship,” Daniel Brown, an executive chamber employee, wrote to Mr. Percoco in October 2014. “Unfortunately, as we discussed, my situation requires more.”
Other moves were more mundane. In November 2014, he sent an email to staff in the governor’s appointments office, using his personal email account to ask them to generate the necessary paperwork for an incoming aide to the lieutenant governor.
“Sure,” one of the staff members replied.
This is not the first time prosecutors have fixated on Mr. Percoco’s omnipresence in the governor’s office after his resignation. In the second week of the trial, they displayed charts showing how Mr. Percoco often swiped in and out of the governor’s Manhattan headquarters while he was working on the campaign, and how more than 800 calls were placed from his desk phone in that time. Election laws prohibit the use of government offices for campaign work.
It remains unclear if Mr. Cuomo, whom prosecutors have not accused of wrongdoing, knew about Mr. Percoco’s activities, although state Republican leaders have argued that it is impossible the governor did not know his friend and trusted aide was working just feet away from his own office.
Early Thursday afternoon, after nearly five weeks of testimony, the prosecution rested its case. Defense lawyers then began calling their own witnesses; the judge, who has repeatedly rebuked them for the length and repetition of their questioning, has urged them to finish by the end of next week.
Until then, the testimony about being held in public service against their will may well strike a chord with the jury. On Wednesday, a juror sent a note to the judge, Valerie E. Caproni, asking how much longer the case was expected to last.
“I’m going to talk to the lawyers. I’m going to hold their feet to the fire on timing,” the judge replied. “I certainly appreciate all of your patience.”
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