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more Corruption trial bruises powerful law firm ALBANY – Over the past 43 years, Whiteman Osterman & Hanna became one of New York's largest and most prominent legal and lobbying firms. In just eight days at the recent political corruption trial of Joe Percoco and three businessmen, it gained a less prestigious distinction: the firm that employed Todd R. Howe, a convicted felon and the bagman for payments to Percoco. Howe, a onetime government insider, testified against Percoco, the former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and his three co-defendants. He also inflicted collateral damage to the Albany-based firm, where Howe managed to stay employed for six years even after being convicted of bank fraud. From its subsidiary offices, where his job title was lobbyist, he engaged in widespread chicanery right under the noses of some of the most seasoned legal experts in upstate New York. Percoco was convicted March 13 of three of the six counts against him, including honest services fraud and soliciting bribes. Just as Percoco's crimes have damaged the reputation of his former employer, Howe's misdeeds have bruised Whiteman Osterman & Hanna. In the wake of the trial, people are "certainly going to connect corruption with that law firm," said Vincent Bonventre, a law professor at Albany Law School. "For lawyers, we're puzzled as to how this could happen in that firm, that they could have had somebody like Todd Howe in that firm for such a while," Bonventre said. "I would imagine any lawyer — even probably lawyers in the firm — are bewildered at how this could have happened." Bonventre offered abundant praise for the ethics, professionalism and legal acumen of others at the firm, which he noted includes senior counsel Howard Levine, a former associate judge of the state Court of Appeals, the state's highest court.
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