Former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno may be getting legal bills believed to be in the $2 million range reimbursed by state taxpayers, now that his federal fraud convictions have been overturned.
Because of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision last month, the once-powerful Republican legislator will also be getting back $100,000 in restitution he paid to the state as part of his sentence.
Bruno will apply for reimbursement of his legal costs under a section of state Public Officers Law that allows for reimbursement if a public official faces charges related to official duties but the charges are dismissed.
Prominent Albany defense attorney Stephen Coffey, a friend and supporter of Bruno, said an application will be filed in the near future with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
How much money Bruno might ask for hasn’t been disclosed. Once an application is filed, Schneiderman would decide how much of the claim, if any, should be paid.
After his 2009 trial, a spokesman indicated Bruno’s legal costs are in the $2 million range. He spent at least the $1.2 million that was in his re-election campaign fund, and prominent supporters including Coffey also raised money for his defense.
Where the money for his defense came from is irrelevant to any reimbursement claim, Coffey said Monday.
“Wherever it came from, he’s entitled to be reimbursed,” Coffey said.
Bruno was convicted of two counts of honest services fraud, but those convictions were dismissed by the Second Circuit court in a Nov. 16 decision. The three-jury panel invalidated the convictions on the grounds that the definition of “honest services” fraud had been changed by the U.S. Supreme Court after his trial.
However, the court said Bruno can be re-tried under the new definition of “honest services” fraud, which limits prosecution to cases alleging payoffs or bribery.
U.S. Attorney for Northern New York Richard Hartunian said he will seek a new indictment. A new trial would be limited to the charges on which Bruno was convicted, involving Loudonville businessman Jared Abbruzzese. Prosecutors are also considering re-filing another charge which resulted in a hung jury at the first trial.
Whether prosecutors will seek new charges is irrelevant to any reimbursement claim from the first trial, Coffey said.
Public Officers’ Law states that a state official may seek reimbursement of their legal costs if the charges are dismissed or they are acquitted at trial, and the charges stem from an official “acting within the scope of his public employment or duties.”
The reimbursement claim will be filed soon, Coffey said, but not until after U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe receives the Court of Appeals decision and formally dismisses the first indictment.
Coffey wouldn’t say how much money will be requested, but confirmed the amount will be substantial.
The legal team representing Bruno before and during his six-week trial included Albany defense attorney William Dreyer and Abbe David Lowell, a prominent Washington, D.C., defense attorney.
Meanwhile, Sharpe signed an order Thursday requiring the state Department of Taxation and Finance to pay $100,000 to the federal court, which will then reimburse Bruno. He also released Bruno from further post-conviction supervision by the court.
The $100,000 was paid by Bruno in 2010 as part of his sentence. Sharpe’s sentence included a $280,000 restitution payment to the state, but Bruno had paid only $100,000 before the rest was stayed by his appeal.
Bruno, 82, of Brunswick, was a state senator for 32 years and leader of the Senate’s Republican majority — one of the most powerful men in the state — from 1994 to 2008. He is widely credited with bringing state money to the Capital Region for a number of transformational economic development projects, including expansions of Albany International Airport and Hudson Valley Community College, and he arranged for the funds that laid the groundwork for the Luther Forest Technology Campus and the arrival there of GlobalFoundries.
In 2009, Bruno was indicted following a three-year FBI investigation. He was tried on eight charges of having undisclosed conflicts of interest, but a jury acquitted him on five of the charges,
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