Percoco Now In Federal Custody

Joseph Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo convicted last year of fraud and bribery, is now inmate number 78132-054.

Percoco reported to federal custody at Otisville Correctional Facility, according to the Bureau of Prisons as he appeals his 2018 conviction after he was found guilty of receiving bribes connected to a power plant development project in the Hudson Valley.

His wife Lisa also received what prosecutors called a “low-show” job in exchange for aiding a licensing effort at the state level.

Percoco is appealing the conviction, but a federal judge ruled earlier this month he cannot remain free during the process.

Percoco is being housed in the same federal facility where former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is serving time for his own corruption conviction stemming from his efforts to help his son secure a job with those with business before the state. Michael Cohen, a former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump pleaded guilty to perjury, is also scheduled to serve his prison sentence at Otisville.

Percoco was a key and longtime aide to Cuomo, who the governor has compared to a brother.

The federal case was intertwined with the prosecution of prominent upstate developers who had received contracts under the Buffalo Billion economic development program.

State lawmakers have called for changes to how contracts are doled out at the state level as well as new oversight measures. Cuomo this year agreed to re-authorizing the state comptroller’s office to have oversight of contracting.

Legislators Supportive Of More Sexual Harassment Hearings

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers in interviews on Thursday backed holding more public hearings on sexual harassment in order to develop broader legislation that could effect more industries in the state.

“As we all know, this is an epidemic and we should be hearing from many different industries, so we should be hearing from fast food workers and farmers and law firms,” said Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, a Bronx Democrat.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group, a panel of former legislative aides who are victims and survivors of harassment and assault while working in state government, have called for at least two more hearings in Albany and in New York City following last month’s hearing that focused largely on the workplace culture of the Legislature.

It was the first time the state Legislature had held a hearing on the issue in more than 20 years.

“We’ve had many different hearings for transportation and each new hearing gives us new information for how we can solve the funding gap or fix existing systems. It’s the same thing with sexual harassment,” Biaggi said.

Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou also backed more hearings, saying in an interview that more stories could be told.

“The one thing that is very obvious after the sexual harassment hearing that we held, so many folks were writing in to me and telling us that their story hadn’t been told,” she said. “There were so many instances that they weren’t able to talk about and they wanted to know that there were some changes and movement happening.”

Lawmakers introduced legislation after the February hearing in Albany that would drop the “severe and pervasive” standard in sexual harassment cases, seen by employment lawyers and survivors as a roadblock to bringing successful cases.

A larger package of measures is also being considered as well as an update on sexual harassment policy in the Legislature itself, Biaggi said.

“How do we create systems that withstand the test of time, but remain malleable so that as we learn information so that the people inside of those systems are protected, no matter who is in charge?” Biaggi said.

NFTA Thanks Gov, Senate For Focus On WNY Transit Systems

From the Morning Memo:

The state Senate Democrats will hold a hearing in Buffalo today regarding New York’s transit network – the fourth of five such hearings being held statewide.

Meanwhile the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is already thanking the chair of the Senate’s Transportation Committee, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, and the governor for an increased focus on the authority this year.

Both the executive budget and the Senate one house budget resolution call for an increase in operating assistance. The Senate’s measure also calls for an 18.7 percent increase for NFTA, $6 million for preliminary work on the Buffalo Metro Rail’s expansion into Amherst, and $100 million for improvements to light rail systems outside of the downstate MTA service areas.

“We appreciate Senator Kennedy for recognizing the critical role that Metro bus and rail service has in our community and how important it is in the re-development of the city of Buffalo and Western New York,” NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel said. “Adequate funding for public transit is an absolute necessity for our entire community and for the thousands of riders who count on us each day.”

As the state looks to invest to fix New York City’ crumbling subway system, upstate lawmakers have vowed to make sure their communities get their fair share of funding, too. Kennedy said he has fought for capital funding for Buffalo’s Metro Rail – currently the only light rail system outside of the MTA – for years.

“The Senate’s proposed budget makes a strong statement as we enter negotiations with the Executive Branch and the Assembly on our final budget,” Kennedy said. “It makes it clear that the Senate Majority is making Upstate and Western New York a top priority. As negotiations move forward, I’ll fight to maintain the highest levels of funding possible for our local transportation needs.”

Minkel plans to speak at today’s hearing. Leaders will take other testimony on transit in Western New York as well.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public events or interviews yet announced.

At 8:15 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears live on MSNBC.

At 9 a.m., Assemblyman David Weprin speaks at the Community School District 26 Presidents’ Council’s Annual Legislative Breakfast, KPacho, 1270 Union Turnpike, New Hyde Park.

Also at 9 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul keynotes a consortium at the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services’ 2019 Critical Issues Symposium, DoubleTree Hotel, 1111 Jefferson Rd., Rochester.

At 10 a.m., the state Senate Democrats hold a public hearing on school governance and accountability, (de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are scheduled to testify around 12:30 p.m.), Senate Hearing Room, 19th Fl., 250 Broadway, Manhattan. Also testifying: NYC Public Advocate-elect Jumaane Williams.

Also at 10 a.m., a special ad-hoc subcommittee on personnel of the State University of New York meet, SUNY Global Center, 116 E. 55th St., Boardroom, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., de Blasio appears live on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” and takes calls from listeners.

At 11 a.m., Assemblywoman Pay Fahy will join advocates and volunteers from the New York State Association for Pupil Transportation to highlight the inclusion of universal pre-K transportation in the Assembly’s budget proposal, Side Portico of the Albany Marriott, 189 Wolf Rd., Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and state Sen. John Brooks urge the state Legislature to restore funding for the Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Project, H. Lee Dennison Building, Media Room, 100 Veterans Memorial Highway, Hauppauge.

Also at 11 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Economic Development meets, Council chamber, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks at the plaque dedication for the one year anniversary of the death of Fire Marshal Christopher T. Zanetis, quarters of Engine 28 & Ladder 11, 222 East 2nd St., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli attends a St. Patrick’s Day luncheon, Buffalo Irish Center, 275 Abbott Rd., Buffalo. (Hochul delivers the keynote address).

At noon, Advocates and elected officials demand state lawmakers authorize the use of bus lane enforcement cameras citywide as part of the state budget, southbound M15 bus stop, East 96th Street and Second Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at noon, Williams joins 32BJ SEIU and the Hotel Trades Council for a rally in support of Baba Sillah, a 32BJ SEIU member who faces a hearing after recently being detained at a regular check-in with ICE, 26 Federal Plaza, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Small Business meets, Council chamber, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., the state Senate Democrats hold the fourth of five statewide hearings on New York’s transit networks, Buffalo City Hall, 65 Niagara Sq., Buffalo.

Also at 2 p.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with state Sen. Velmanette Montgomery and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright, holds a joint legislative hearing to examine New York City’s homeownership housing crisis, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

Also at 2 p.m., Hochul outlines the 2019 Women’s Justice Agenda at the WNY Women’s Agenda Forum, University at Buffalo, Student Union Theater, 150 Putnam Way, Buffalo.

At 3:30 p.m., Hochul announces the expansion of anti-money laundering company AML RightSource and the creation of new jobs, Larkin at Exchange, Suite 140 F, 701 Seneca St., Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, state Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and New York City Councilman Costa Constantinides host Astoria’s annual celebration of Greek independence, Stathakion Center, 22-51 29th St., Queens.

At 6:30 p.m., Williams speaks at the “Trust and Transparency” Symposium on Law Enforcement Oversight, sponsored by the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Office for the Advancement of Research, 860 11th Ave., Manhattan.

Headlines…

At least 40 people were killed in attacks on two separate mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that were carried out by a group of four white supremacists.

A dozen Republican U.S. senators broke ranks and voted with Democrats, 59-41, to block President Trump’s border wall-obsessed national emergency declaration, marking a major embarrassment for Trump and paving the way for the first veto of his presidency.

The captain of a doomed Ethiopian Airlines jetliner faced an emergency almost immediately after takeoff from Addis Ababa, requesting permission in a panicky voice to return after three minutes as the aircraft accelerated to abnormal speed, a person who reviewed air traffic communications said.

Hallmark has decided to cut ties with actress Lori Loughlin — the longtime face of its cable channel — following her arrest in the ongoing college bribery scandal.

Loughlin‘s daughters are dropping out of the University of Southern California because they’re afraid of being bullied over the massive college admissions scam that has left them feeling like “a mess.”

The children of marketing executive Jane Buckingham, one of the 40 individuals charged in a nationwide college admissions cheating scandal, are breaking their silence, indicating they did not know anything of the scheme.

This week’s college admissions scandal provided an instruction manual for gaming the SAT: bribe the proctor, hire a stand-in, see the right psychologist to get a signoff for more time.

Buckingham was a co-host of a U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 2020 fund-raiser days before the indictments hit.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke entered the 2020 presidential race and his fundraising prowess and name recognition immediately sent ripples through the campaigns, landing him endorsements from two New Yorkers: Reps. Kathleen Rice and Sean Patrick Maloney, despite Gillibrand’s presence in the field.

Insider testimony, emails and other evidence show Trump turned his charitable foundation into a wing of his White House campaign, New York’s attorney general said in a new court filing.

An amended bill to close New York’s so-called “double jeopardy loophole” was formally introduced late yesterday after lawmakers came to an agreement earlier this week on the legislation, which will allow state prosecutors to bring charges against certain individuals pardoned of federal crimes.

The “nonprofit” Vermont-based think tank founded by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wife and son is closing up shop after drawing criticism over the donations it’s been receiving.

Trump slammed ex-House Speaker Paul Ryan for not being aggressive enough in going after his perceived enemies, and said Democrats “played a tougher game” than Republicans even though all of the really tough people back him.

The Connecticut Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the firearms industry, clearing the way for a lawsuit against the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used by the gunman in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross got hit with a subpoena threat after repeatedly dodging questions about why he really added a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, an activist group tracking hate groups in the U.S., announced that it has fired its co-founder and former chief litigator.

After two failed attempts, a bill that has the power to extend the protections granted by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender identity and sexual orientation might finally have a chance to become law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a swanky, hush-hush fundraiser at the posh St. Regis hotel in midtown Manhattan last night, while in the midst of negotiations with state lawmakers to adopt a $173 billion budget by April 1. Attendees included people who have business before the state.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to spend $10 billion to “climate-proof” lower Manhattan by expanding the coastline by two blocks into the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Battery.

A federal judge has signed off on a settlement that will see NYC pay back more than $4 million of pilfered Hurricane Sandy aid that paid for “junk” city vehicles damaged well before the 2012 storm.

More >

Cuomo Admin Again Blasts Legislative Budget Plans

The budget resolutions approved this week in the state Senate and Assembly failed to curtail spending or, in the Senate’s case, be backed up by new revenues, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top budget official said Thursday in a statement.

Division of Budget Director Robert Mujica called the Senate’s proposal “wholly incredible” for raising spending by almost $3.5 billion without corresponding spending cuts or tax increases.

The Assembly’s spending increase is also “not acceptable and is still billions out of balance.”

And the statement knocks the Senate plan for not funding a $40 million tax assessment for Nassau County.

“It is another obvious political charade,” Mujica said.

“It is like the $3 billion New York was supposedly giving to Amazon. It never existed. There is no funding for Nassau’s tax assessment, there is no $3.5 billion of extra spending as the Senate promises its supporters. The continued creation of these false political expectations makes the reality of an on-time, responsible government budget virtually impossible.”

The statement will likely only lead to more grumbling from Democrats in the Senate and Assembly amid an increasingly truculent budget season.

On Wednesday, Mujica, along with secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa held a press conference with Counsel Alphonso David to announce a reversal in cuts to Medicaid spending, but also knocked the legislative budget resolutions, which do not carry the force of law and largely aspirational documents.

DeRosa in one instance said the budgets were written in “fantasy land” and lacked grounding in reality.

Cuomo earlier this week had suggested Assembly Democrats were in the pocket of the state’s teachers union for opposing a permanent cap on property tax increases while also saying Senate Democrats were not accustomed to governing.

The press conference came after one lawmaker, Sen. Zellnor Myrie, contended that Cuomo’s criticism of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the first black woman to the hold post, was gender and race based.

Democrats have quietly pointed to Mujica’s resume as a Republican Senate Finance Committee official before joining the Cuomo administration, as well.

On Twitter, Senate Democratic conference spokesman said of Mujica’s statement that it “sounds like this statement was written in fantasyland.”

Extras

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution to overturn President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, with 12 Republicans joining all Democrats to deliver a bipartisan rebuke to the president.

Trump brushed off the impending rejection of his national border wall emergency, downplaying the defection of significant numbers of Republicans and saying: “I don’t know what the vote will be; I will probably have to veto it.”

As Brexit negotiations continue in the United Kingdom, Trump weighed in during an Oval Office meeting today with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, claiming British Prime Minister Theresa May did not listen to his negotiating advice.

A Texas landowner suing over Trump’s national emergency declaration is worried his ancestors’ bodies will be dug up if border wall construction passes by his land.

In a lengthy decision of great significance, a New York appeals court has affirmed a decision that Trump must face a defamation lawsuit brought by season-five Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos.

One of the most prominent prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller is leaving the team soon, a likely indication that the investigation is close to wrapping up.

Two college students have filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California, Yale University and other colleges where prosecutors have accused rich and famous parents of paying bribes to ensure their children’s admission.

Sephora has officially ended its partnership with Olivia Jade Giannulli, the 19-year-old YouTuber and daughter of Lori Loughlin, who’s at the center of the nationwide college admissions cheating scam.

Roger Stone will face trial on Nov. 5 in a Washington, DC, federal courthouse on charges that he lied about trying to secretly contact WikiLeaks in 2016, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled.

Actress Rosario Dawson not only confirmed she’s dating New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, but says she’s in love with the 2020 Democratic contender. (In 2016, she was a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president).

“He’s a wonderful human being,” Dawson said of Booker. “It’s good to spend some time together when we can. We’re very busy.”

The former Fox News editor who killed a story about the alleged affair between Stormy Daniels and Trump published the spiked post in its entirety as part of an effort to prove his editorial decision was not political.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio today joined a group of climate scientists and local officials to announce what he called “the filling one of the biggest gaps in our coastal defenses,” adding: “We’re going to protect Lower Manhattan, which includes the Financial District, home to a half-million jobs, 90,000 residents, and the nexus of almost all our subway lines.”

The number of civilians who have been stopped, questioned, and frisked by the NYPD has dropped dramatically during the de Blasio administration, going from a high of nearly 700,000 in 2011 when Mayor Bloomberg was in charge, to a low of 12,000 in 2017, a new report shows.

According to data from the state’s Department of Labor, in 2018, full-service restaurants recorded a -1.6 percent job loss, which is the industry’s first recorded annual job loss in nearly two decades.

A study from the personal finance site WalletHub found that New York has one of the highest tax rates in the country, coming in at number 48, out of 51 states and Washington, D.C. and behind Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois.

A group that helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeat veteran Rep. Joe Crowley is threatening to back other insurgents against Democrats in the Assembly next year – specifically the DACC co-chairs, Joe Lentol and Peter Abbate of Brooklyn and Jeff Dinowitz of the Bronx — if they don’t adopt a more pro-tenant, pro-labor agenda.

State Assembly and Senate budget resolutions proposed a cost-of-living adjustment for human-services workers that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal defers.

After years of pressure from advocates, Cuomo signed legislation, as part of his 2017-18 budget, that required police departments across New York to record the custodial questioning of suspects in major felony cases, such as homicide or rape. But advocates say the law falls short of what it was meant to do.

Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor accused by Chicago police of staging a fake hate crime for personal profit, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on a 16-count indictment of lying to police. He has denied the charges.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced five more schools defied a Department of Education mandate by allowing unvaccinated students to attend school, as the Brooklyn’s measles toll climbs to 158.

Gun maker Remington can be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, a divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled.

Stewart-Cousins: No Regrets Appointing Gianaris To PACB

It wasn’t the appointment to the Public Authorities Control Board, but the process itself.

That was the message on Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins when asked about the defeated project to bring Amazon to Long Island City in Queens, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has laid at the feet of Senate Democrats.

“I believe if the process had been better, I believe we would have had a better outcome,” she said in an interview on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

Amazon pulled the plug on the project, which could have brought up to 25,000 jobs tied to $3 billion in tax credits and other incentives, to New York City. The deal was scuttled after Stewart-Cousins nominated Sen. Mike Gianaris, a critic of the project, to a board that would have had veto authority over the tax incentives.

But Stewart-Cousins had no regret backing Gianaris for the board, calling it a logical move. She added she would have taken similar action for any Democratic lawmaker with a major project pending in their district.

“My pick was my deputy who, by the way, represents that particular district, it was a recommendation. It was not a direct appointment,” she said, noting the governor never formally approved the appointment.

“Everybody was asking questions and they were excluding from the process during almost two years of a process that got inked before anyone knew.”

Gianaris’s nomination was later withdrawn after the deal was shelved. Stewart-Cousins later nominated Sen. Leroy Comrie for the post.

Stewart-Cousins: ‘Extremely Close’ On Criminal Justice Changes

State lawmakers “are extremely close” to forging a deal on criminal just law changes that include ensuring a speedy trial, changing how evidence during discovery is handled and a curtailing of cash bail, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Thursday in a radio interview.

“We are extremely close, extremely close in the discovery, in speedy trial, a lot closer on bail,” she said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show. “We understand that what we do is going to impact the lives of so many people incarcerated. So we want to get it right. We want to make sure it really reforms the criminal justice system in ways that will protect the innocent and make sure that people who should be in jail are in jail.”

This is contrary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s public comments that the Legislature is far apart on the issue that he wants included in a final version of the state budget, due at the end of the month.

Stewart-Cousins, as well as legislators who want to see the changes made this session, have said they are trying to take their time in order to get the details “right” on the issue — satisfying both criminal justice advocates as well as prosecutors and law enforcement officials who raised concerns.

Meanwhile, the legalization of marijuana in the budget appears to be increasingly falling out of the talks.

“I’m interested in making sure that whatever we do we do it in a way that makes sense,” Stewart-Cousins said Thursday. “Obviously this is a new industry for us, it would be a new market for us. This is not a rush to make sure this just gets done.”

Fmr. State Senator Serving Federal Sentence At Massachussetts Facility

Former state Senator Marc Panepinto, D-Buffalo, will serve his two-month prison sentence at a federal facility in Massachussetts.

According to the Bureau of Prisons Database, Panepinto is at the Federal Medical Center Devens. The prison specializes in long-term medical and mental health care but also houses inmates of various security levels.

The U.S. attorneys office said Panepinto was scheduled to report on Wednesday. A judge sentenced him in December after he pleaded guilty to an attempted coverup of unwanted sexual advances toward a female staffer.

Panepinto announced in late 2016 that he wouldn’t seek re-election, citing the health of his since-deceased law partner, but it was later revealed that he was accused of the sexual advances. He admitted to sending a senior staffer to offer the woman money or a job in exchange for her not to cooperate with a Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which is against the law.

The court also fined him $9,500 and separately, state ethics regulators ordered him to pay another $10,000 for the coverup. The judge gave him several months to get things in order with his family and law firm before starting the sentence.

Notable former prisoners at FMC Devens include Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, before he was transferred to a Supermax prison to await the death penalty, and former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who is now at a re-entry center in New York City.

DiNapoli Eyes 2022 Re-Election

dinapoli2022Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s campaign account has re-named itself in anticipation of a re-election bid for the office he’s held since 2007.

DiNapoli’s campaign committee recently changed its name to DiNapoli 2022, according to a filing on the state Board of Elections website. The filing indicates DiNapoli will be seeking another term as comptroller, managing the state’s retirement fund as well as conducting audits and oversight of state spending.

DiNapoli, a Democratic former member of the Assembly, was selected by the Legislature in 2007 to replace Alan Hevesi, who resigned before he was sworn in to a second term.

DiNapoli is now the longest serving statewide official in New York government.