Bruno trial: $4 M in state grants debated in testimony

Friday, May 9, 2014
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Joe Bruno arrives at the federal courthouse for trial on Monday in Albany .
Joe Bruno arrives at the federal courthouse for trial on Monday in Albany .

— How a promising technology start-up company landed state grants and a new home when the roof started collapsing in its old building was at the center of testimony today in Joe Bruno's federal court corruption trial.

Evident Technologies of Troy secured a $1.5 million state grant in 2002, and Russell Sage College then got $2.5 million in state funds in 2005 to provide new incubator laboratory space to the company, which remains there today.

Federal prosecutors contend both grants came about because Evident investor Jared Abbruzzese was buying the former state Senate Republican majority's influence through a series of $20,000 per month consulting contracts.

Completing his testimony this morning, Abbruzzese said he never told Bruno that he was entitled to buy stock options in the company, called warrants, as installments of the state grant were received. "I can't imagine how he would know about this warrants," Abbruzzese said.

While the grant was announced in 2002 as being for $1.5 million, Evident only received $500,000, in two separate $250,000 payments that required Bruno's authorization. The company was located in his Senate district, which included Rensselaer and part of Saratoga counties.

In his testimony, Evident President Clinton Ballinger called Abbruzzese "our biggest cheerleader. He was our raising money for us from state government, the federal government, any way he could."

He said he talked to Senate staff in pushing for grant payments, but didn't deal directly with Bruno.

Abbruzzese, a key prosecution witness, also concluded his testimony.

Abbruzzese paid Bruno through a satellite communications company called Motient Corp. over six months in 2005. Asked by prosecutors what Bruno did in return for the $120,000, he said Bruno's presence gave him stature — but the only specific he cited was having Bruno attend a Republican National Committee fundraiser in New York City which he said raised $250,000 to $300,000.

"At the time Motient had multiple things going on in Washington D.C., it was a Republican administration," he said.

Bruno, 85, of Brunswick, is being retried on two counts of honest services fraud, allegations that he deprived New Yorkers of his honest services as an elected official by taking bribes or kickbacks from Abbruzzese.

Trial testimony will resume at 10 a.m. Monday in U.S. District Court.

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