He admitted to a litany of unpaid bills, legal judgments and defaulted mortgages that had dogged him for two decades. These included a 2010 felony conviction for theft related to a fraudulent $45,000 bank deposit.
He had also embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years from Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, an Albany law firm where he had set up a lobbying practice, and he had evaded taxes on more than $1 million he funneled to a side lobbying firm called Potomac Strategies.
“I was living way above my means,” Mr. Howe said on Wednesday, “and I had dug myself into a deep hole.”
Mr. Howe, an old friend of Mr. Percoco’s, has pleaded guilty to felony charges and has been cooperating with the government against Mr. Percoco and three executives of two firms, COR Development and Competitive Power Ventures, who are also on trial.
His cross-examination comes in the third week of Mr. Percoco’s trial. After Mr. Bohrer concludes his questioning of Mr. Howe, lawyers for each of the three co-defendants are to follow.
The government had told the jury that it would introduce other, supporting evidence to Mr. Howe’s testimony, and that Mr. Howe had been cooperating in hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence.
He testified on Monday that his cooperation deal required him to be truthful, and that if he were to lie, prosecutors would “rip up this agreement.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Howe, for the most part, maintained his composure as Mr. Bohrer drilled him with questions about his past.
“You had a history of not being truthful, correct?” Mr. Bohrer asked Mr. Howe.
“Yes,” Mr. Howe said.
Had he lied to his family? To his friends? To his colleagues? To his employer? Mr. Bohrer asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Howe responded each time.
Mr. Howe admitted that he had also lied to banks, vendors, his lawyer, even to dog walkers.
His testimony showed him to be adept at borrowing money but not paying it back. Years earlier, he said, he borrowed $82,000 from a relative, promising to repay it in 45 days. It took five years and a court judgment for Mr. Howe to make good on the debt.
He had filed for bankruptcy, and repeatedly neglected payments to a variety of vendors, contractors, and other businesses — including a tutor for his son — while he continued to work as a lobbyist in Albany and Washington.
In 2010, Mr. Howe’s fortunes seemed to be changing as Mr. Cuomo began a run for governor. In May 2010, Mr. Howe received an email from Mr. Percoco, saying, it was time to activate the “brotherhood” of Cuomo family associates, and asking that he join the campaign. (Mr. Percoco and Mr. Howe had both worked for Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor — and father of the current governor — who died in 2015.)
Mr. Howe acknowledged under cross-examination that after receiving Mr. Percoco’s email, he forwarded it to several associates, but only after doctoring it to make it appear Mr. Percoco had also written, “I need to tell A.C. ASAP.”
The additional language was to suggest that Mr. Percoco said that he needed to tell Andrew Cuomo “as soon as possible” whether Mr. Howe would be joining the campaign.
“You added that to make yourself look more important, right?” Mr. Bohrer asked.
“Yes,” Mr. Howe said.
Mr. Howe testified that he had repeatedly altered emails before forwarding them, to place himself in a better light or suggest he had greater access to officials.
He said he decided in 2016 to assist the government after a “come-to-Jesus” meeting with his lawyer.
“I needed to step up and accept the responsibility,” he said, “and that would be the best thing for myself and for my family.”
But Mr. Bohrer went back and forth with Mr. Howe, suggesting that avoiding a long prison term was his primary motivation.
“This agreement was really your ticket to getting a reduced sentence, right?” Mr. Bohrer asked.
Mr. Howe, now 57 and working as a groundskeeper in Idaho, rejected that interpretation, saying his primary reason “was to sit here today and tell the truth and be honest.”
As Mr. Bohrer pressed him, Mr. Howe snapped at the defense lawyer, asserting that he was telling the truth, but not only because of the deal with prosecutors.
“I am telling the truth because I made horrible mistakes,” Mr. Howe testified. “I wrecked my career. I damaged my family, I lost all my associates.”
“So, I find it a bit insulting you’re saying the only reason I told the truth is to get a get-out-of-jail-free card, because that is not true.”
“Are you finished?” Mr. Bohrer remarked.
“Yeah, I’m finished,” Mr. Howe replied.
Mr. Howe’s cross-examination resumes Thursday.
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