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Second trial

New Bruno trial set for May 12

Ex-state Senate leader will turn 85 in April

Monday, December 2, 2013
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Second trial


Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno appears in federal court with his lawyers in Albany on Thursday, May 3, 2012, for a second federal indictment.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno appears in federal court with his lawyers in Albany on Thursday, May 3, 2012, for a second federal indictment.

— The second federal corruption trial for former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has been scheduled for May 12.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe set the definite trial date Nov. 27, following up on a meeting with prosecutors and Bruno’s attorneys the previous week.

At a Nov. 22 status conference, Sharpe — who also presided over the first trial — said he couldn’t conduct the trial until May 12, but didn’t rule out transferring the case to a different judge for a quicker trial. That option is now off the table.

In the latest development, Sharpe waived any speedy trial question in light of Bruno’s continuing recovery from cancer surgery and set the trial date.

Bruno’s trial was originally scheduled to start Monday, but had already been already postponed last month as the 84-year-old recovers from September surgery. He will turn 85 in April.

Previously, prosecutors said they wanted the trial rescheduled for February, but the defense was asking for more time for Bruno to recover.

Bruno underwent surgery in New York City on Sept. 26 for a cancerous kidney tumor.

The new trial will be the second for Bruno. It will again focus on charges that the former state senator from Rensselaer County took undisclosed payments during a portion of the time he was Senate majority leader between 1994 and 2008.

Because of that position, the Republican was one of the most powerful men in state government, and he used his influence to promote the Luther Forest Technology Campus and other economic development projects. Many Capital Region residents regard Bruno as a hero for the economic development projects he supported.

His first trial, in 2009, received extensive media coverage and revealed much about how influence is peddled in Albany.

In that trial, Bruno was acquitted of five charges of honest services fraud and convicted of two charges. The convictions were then overturned on appeal after the U.S. Supreme Court redefined and toughened the standards for an honest services fraud conviction.

Prosecutors last year obtained a new indictment charging Bruno with accepting what amounted to a bribe or kickback, which the new legal standard requires.

Bruno’s attorneys sought dismissal on the grounds of double jeopardy, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City in August rejected that argument, clearing the way for the new trial.

Prosecutors allege that $440,000 in payments Bruno received from friend and businessman Jared Abbruzzese amounted to bribes because Abbruzzese owned companies that had business pending before state government.

The payments, made between 2004 and 2006, included $80,000 in exchange for a “virtually worthless” horse, prosecutors contend.

Bruno, who lives in Brunswick, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying the payments were legitimate business-consulting fees.

 
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