A federal court jury tomorrow will begin deliberating on whether “consulting payments” received by former state Senate leader Joseph L. Bruno were actually bribes.
Closing statements in Bruno’s nine-day-old trial on corruption charges are slated for 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse.
But prosecution and defense rested their cases today, with the 85-year-old Republican waiving the right to testify in his own defense.
Bruno, of Brunswick, who was the Senate’s majority leader from 1994 to 2008, faces two counts of honest services fraud — allegations that he accepted $360,000 in consulting payments from businessman Jared Abbruzzese in 2004-2005, and $80,000 from Abbruzzese for a “worthless” race horse.
In return, prosecutors contend he used state grant money to benefit an Abbruzzese company, and appointed an Abbruzzese associate to the New York Racing Association board. Bruno has denied the charges.
Defense witness James Feathersonhaugh, a prominent Albany lawyer and lobbyiest, testified today that legislators like Bruno are very busy. “The volume of work they do and people they see is staggering,” Featherstonhaugh said.
Prosecutor William Pericak pointed out that Bruno and Featherstonhaugh once had a land development partnership, and Bruno didn’t seek ethics advise on the matter until an election opponent revealed it.
At the end of testimony, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe denied a defense motion to dismiss the case, saying he was obliged by law to “look at the side most favorable to the government.”
Closing statements by the defense and prosecution are expected to make all morning, to be followed by legal instructions from Judge Sharpe to the jury.