Attorneys for former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno continued to insist Monday that the former Republican leader shouldn’t face a new federal trial on bribery charges.
In what may be the last effort to dismiss the indictment before it goes to trial, Bruno lawyers E. Stewart Jones of Troy and William J. Dreyer of Albany said in a court filing that the prosecution’s case remains flawed.
“Mr. Bruno should not have to bear the hardships and expense of a retrial that rests, once again, upon the government’s flawed interpretation of criminal statute,” Dreyer wrote.
In a separate filing last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the once-powerful Republican politician should face a second federal trial and there’s enough evidence to convict him on charges he accepted $300,000 in illegal payments from friend and business associate Jared Abbruzzese.
Bruno’s 2009 convictions on two charges of honest services fraud were dismissed by a federal appeals court a year ago, after the U.S. Supreme Court tightened the definition of honest services fraud to require proof of bribery or kickbacks.
In the earlier trial, the government only had to prove that Bruno knowingly hid conflicts of interest — the standard the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled, in a different case, wasn’t a federal crime.
“Where there has been a reversal of a conviction because of a defective legal theory, double jeopardy does not bar retrial on the correct theory,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth C. Coombe wrote in those papers.
Federal prosecutors in May re-indicted the Bruno on two counts of felony honest services fraud, alleging the former power broker from Rensselaer County took bribes and kickbacks from Abbruzzese, who owned a technology company that received start-up funding through the state.
Bruno has maintained his innocence.
Jones and Dreyer contend that by law, a new indictment should have been brought within 60 days of the appeals court decision, rather than the six-month deadline used by prosecutors.
The merits of the two sides’ legal arguments will now be weighed by U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe. Trial is currently scheduled for Feb. 4.
Bruno, now 83, was one of the most powerful politicians in the state when he was in the Senate, and he steered hundreds of millions of state dollars into Capital Region economic development projects — leading him to have many local defenders.
The Brunswick resident was sentenced to two years in federal prison but has never served any time behind bars. He remains free without bail.