The judge overseeing former state Senate leader Joseph Bruno’s federal court corruption trial denied a defense request for a mistrial late today.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe ruled immediately from the bench on a motion to end Bruno’s trial immediately, because prosecutors have repeatedly introduced evidence about campaign contributions by Jared Abbruzzese, the businessman Bruno is accused of accepting bribes from.
The defense raised objections last week when there was testimony about those contributions, and Sharpe has twice instructed the jury that information about the campaign contributions to be used for context, but not as evidence of a crime. He said he will give the instruction again at the end of the case.
Prosecutors said they are using the information only to flesh-out the Abbruzzese-Bruno relationship in 2004-2005, the years Abbruzzese paid Bruno $360,000 as a “business consultant.”
“It has gone beyond presenting the story,” defense attorney Benjamin Hill told Sharpe in making the mistrial motion this afternoon after the jury had been sent home for the day. He said the information has been presented to make it seem like the contributions were an illegal gift. “That is bell that cannot be unrung,” Hill told the court.
While Sharpe’s denial of the motion was expected, the motion preserves the issues in case there is a conviction and future appeal.
Bruno, 85, of Brunswick, who was the Senate’s Republican majority leader from 1994 to 2008, is on trial for the second time in charges of “honest services fraud” — that he deprived the public of his honest services be accepting money from Abbruzzese as a bribe.
Testimony will resume at 10 a.m. tomorrow, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe saying the prosecution is likely to conclude its case.