The federal judge hearing the honest services fraud case against former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has asked attorneys for arguments on whether a second trial will constitute “double jeopardy.”
“Resolving the question of double jeopardy now ensures that Bruno is not ‘twice put in jeopardy of life and limb,’ ” U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe wrote in an order issued late Tuesday.
The double jeopardy principle is that a person can’t be tried for the same crime twice.
Sharpe said Bruno lawyers William J. Dreyer and E. Stewart Jones raised the issue in a “roundabout” way in a recent motion to dismiss the current two-count indictment against Bruno and should address the issue directly.
“Circumventing this issue would be inequitable and inefficient, as the court is well aware that Bruno could — assuming the court rules against him — seek an interlocutory appeal on the issue of double jeopardy,” Sharpe wrote.
Such an appeal could delay the scheduled Feb. 4 start of Bruno’s second trial. Sharpe gave defense attorneys five days to file written arguments and the U.S. Attorney’s Office another five days to respond.
Bruno, 83, of Brunswick, was convicted in 2009 of two counts of honest services fraud, but the convictions were overturned last year after the U.S. Supreme Court tightened the definition of honest services fraud. Prosecutors re-indicted Bruno in May, however, saying they believe he can be convicted of honest services fraud under the new legal standard, which would require proof that he accepted kickbacks or bribes.
Dreyer and Jones, ins their recent motion, contended the new indictment can’t constitutionally broaden the charges brought in the original indictment to include allegations of bribery and kickbacks. Prosecutors say they can.
Bruno was a state senator from 1976 until his resignation in 2008 and was the chamber’s majority leader — and one of the most powerful Republicans in the state — from 1994 to 2008.