The second federal corruption trial of former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, scheduled to start in three weeks, will be delayed while he recovers from cancer surgery.
Prosecutors want the trial rescheduled for February, but the defense is asking for more time, proposing April instead.
Bruno’s new trial had been set for Dec. 2 in U.S. District Court in Albany, but that was before the 84-year-old underwent surgery Sept. 26 for a cancerous kidney tumor.
Bruno’s doctors said he needs three or four months to recover. Based on their interpretations of that, Bruno lawyers William Dreyer and E. Stewart Jones are asking for a trial date after April 1, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe is seeking a Feb. 3 trial date.
The decision will be made by U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe. On Thursday, he stayed his order that pretrial motions be submitted by Nov. 12 but did not make a decision on a new trial date.
In an Oct. 28 letter to Sharpe, Coombe cited a doctor’s report saying Bruno needs 90 to 120 days to recover from the surgery and pushed for quick action after that. “That date would be Jan. 26, 2014, and we propose that the trial begin one week later, on Feb. 3,” she wrote.
The next day, Dreyer wrote the judge asking for a trial delay until sometime after April 1.
“The basis of the request is that the four-month recuperation period is one in which Mr. Bruno should concentrate on recuperation, not trial preparation,” Dreyer wrote the judge.
Both letters were disclosed in federal court filings Thursday.
The trial, whenever it is scheduled, will be the second for Bruno and will again focus on charges he took undisclosed payments during part of the time when he was Senate majority leader between 1994 and 2008 and was one of the most powerful men in state government.
Many Capital Region residents regard Bruno as a hero for the economic development projects he used his state position to sponsor, and his first trial in 2009 was heavily publicized.
In that trial, Bruno was acquitted of five charges and convicted of two. The convictions were then overturned on appeal, after the U.S. Supreme Court redefined and toughened the standards for an “honest services” fraud conviction.
Prosecutors last year were able to get a new indictment using the new legal standard. This summer, a federal appeals court ruled that the second indictment didn’t create unconstitutional double jeopardy, clearing the way for a new trial.
This time, prosecutors are alleging that payments Bruno got from friend Jared Abbruzzese amounted to bribes because he owned companies that had business pending before state government.
Bruno, who lives in Brunswick, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
It is alleged that he received $440,000 in payments from Abbruzzese between 2004 and 2006, including $80,000 in exchange for a “virtually worthless” horse. The government argues that the payments — the same ones that led to Bruno’s conviction at his first trial — meet the legal definition of a bribe or kickback.