Bruno trial: May at earliest
84-year-old recovering from cancer surgery
ALBANY A new federal trial for former state Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno won’t happen before May, the presiding judge said at a status conference Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe told attorneys that the earliest to conduct a trial would be May 12, 2014 — although he didn’t rule out transferring the case to a different judge.
Bruno’s trial was originally scheduled to start Dec. 2, but was already postponed as the 84-year-old recovers from cancer surgery in September. He will turn 85 in April.
Prior to Friday’s conference, prosecutors said they wanted the trial rescheduled for February, but the defense was asking for more time for Bruno to recover, proposing an April trial date instead.
Bruno underwent surgery in New York City on Sept. 26 for a cancerous kidney tumor. His doctors said he needed three or four months to recover.
An attorney for Bruno, E. Stewart Jones, said he will be submitting a letter to the court concerning Bruno’s health.
The trial, whenever it is scheduled, will be the second for Bruno. It will again focus on charges that the former state senator took undisclosed payments during a portion of the time he was Senate majority leader between 1994 and 2008 — and because of that position, was one of the most powerful men in state government.
Many Capital Region residents regard Bruno as a hero for the economic development projects he supported around the Capital Region.
His first trial, in 2009, was extensively covered by newspapers and television, and revealed much about how influence is peddled in Albany.
In the end, Bruno was acquitted of five charges of honest services fraud and convicted of two. 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.
Prosecutors are alleging 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.