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Star Witness In Percoco Trial Returns To Stand After Arrest

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The government's star witness in the bribery trial of a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo returned to the witness stand Tuesday.

As WCBS 880's Ethan Harp reported, Todd Howe returned to the witness stand Tuesday dressed in a suit and not a jail uniform. That is the way prosecutors wanted it, even though Howe was arrested last week.

Howe is the star witness in the case against Joseph Percoco, the longtime Cuomo lieutenant. Defense attorney Daniel Gitner immediately tore into Howe about his stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel – accusing him of trying to rip off his credit card company by trying to reverse a $600 charge.

But Howe denied doing that, saying he had been coming and using hotels repeatedly because his daughter had been in intensive car in the hospital.

Armed with fresh ammunition to attack Howe's credibility, Gitner asked the witness whether he had spent the weekend in jail and then woke in jail on Tuesday morning. The witness quietly answered ``yes'' to both questions.

Asked if he thought he was in more trouble than ever, Howe responded, ``I believe I'm in a whole lot of trouble altogether, counselor.''

At one point, Howe sought defend himself by saying, ``My intent was not to defraud my credit card company. I just didn't remember what I had done.''

Judge Valerie Caproni allowed the questioning despite arguments by prosecutors that a one-sentence explanation from her about the arrest would suffice.

The defense also accuses How of lying on a mortgage application just before working with federal prosecutors, not revealing credit card debt of more than $10,000.

It is all a concentrated effort on the defense's part to shatter Howe's credibility as the star witness in the case.

The arrest was an unusual twist in the case against Joseph Percoco, a multi-decade confidante of the Democratic governor, who has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted over $300,000 in bribes from three businessmen who had business with the state and could benefit from his influence.

Howe, 57, has testified that how he sought to help Percoco, once a close friend, overcome financial woes by arranging for developers to funnel bribes to Percoco's wife. In exchange, Percoco worked to clear the way for state permits for a power plant and get a pay raise for one of the developer's sons, who worked for Cuomo, he said.

The witness has pleaded guilty to eight crimes that carry a potential of up to 130 years in prison. The longtime Washington lobbyist has testified that he hopes his cooperation wins him leniency.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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