A prosecutor sought Monday to control the damage over the stunning arrest of the government’s star witness in the bribery trial of a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Jurors deserve a one-sentence explanation of why Todd Howe was arrested after his testimony Thursday that he tried to commit credit card fraud following his signing a cooperation deal with prosecutors that required him not to commit any more crimes, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Janis Echenberg.
Judge Valerie Caproni said she did not plan to instruct the jury, but left options open to limit what jurors learn about why Howe is now incarcerated as he testifies against his former friend, Joseph Percoco.
“We’ll see what happens,” Caproni said.
Percoco, a multi-decade confidant of the Democratic governor, is on trial in Manhattan on charges that he accepted over $300,000 in bribes from three businessmen who had business with the state and could benefit from his influence. He has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer said he did not accept bribes.
Echenberg told Caproni that the government wanted to ensure the jury did not misunderstand facts surrounding Howe’s bail revocation.
The longtime Washington lobbyist was taken into custody hours after testifying that he knew the government might punish him for trying to improperly recover the cost of a $600 room at a Manhattan luxury hotel from a credit card company after he signed a plea deal promising not to commit any new crimes.
Howe has pleaded guilty to eight crimes that carry a potential of up to 130 years in prison. He has testified that he hopes his cooperation wins him leniency.
Echenberg said she wants the jury to be told only that Howe was incarcerated for a potential violation of his bail conditions.
She said Howe’s bail was revoked after prosecutors told another courthouse judge that it appeared Howe had violated the terms of his bail “based on the testimony.”
The prosecutor said the government did not want jurors thinking he was arrested because of credit card fraud.
The judge, though, said there was a “very fine line” between possible credit card fraud and the reason prosecutors wanted to give jurors for his incarceration.
A lawyer’s illness caused postponement of the trial Monday. It was scheduled to resume Tuesday.