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What you need to know for 08/19/2017

Bruno lawyers seeking to block ‘prejudicial evidence’

Bruno lawyers seeking to block ‘prejudicial evidence’

Lawyers for former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno are seeking to limit the evidence th
Bruno lawyers seeking to block ‘prejudicial evidence’
Former Senate majority leader Joe Bruno is swarmed by reporters outside Federal Court in Albany in 2010.

Lawyers for former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno are seeking to limit the evidence that can be used against him at his second trial in U.S. District Court in Albany.

Bruno, who was the Senate’s Republican majority leader from 1994 to 2008, is scheduled to go on trial May 5 before U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe, who also presided at the first trial.

In a pretrial motion filed late Monday, Bruno’s attorneys are seeking to block any evidence concerning conduct for which he was acquitted of criminal charges at his first trial in December 2009.

“The government should not be permitted to do an end-around the jury’s acquittals through the introduction of prejudicial evidence regarding acquitted conduct,” wrote William J. Dreyer of Albany, one of Bruno’s lawyers.

On Tuesday, Sharpe called for federal prosecutors to respond to the motion by March 24.

Bruno will turn 85 in April. His trial was originally scheduled for last November but was postponed after Bruno underwent surgery in New York City on Sept. 26 for a cancerous kidney tumor.

The new trial will focus on charges that he took payments from friend Jared Abbruzzese while Abbruzzese’s companies had business pending before state government.

Prosecutors contend some $440,000 in payments received from Abbruzzese between 2004 and 2006 amounted to bribes and kickbacks.

In his first trial, Bruno was convicted of two counts of honest services fraud involving payments from Abbruzzese but acquitted of five other counts of the same charge.

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 obtained a new indictment charging Bruno with accepting what amounted to a bribe or kickback from Abbruzzese, which the new legal standard for honest services fraud requires.

Bruno’s attorneys sought dismissal of the indictment on grounds of double jeopardy, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City last August rejected that argument, clearing the way for another trial.

In the first trial, prosecutors tried to show a pattern of conduct in which Bruno accepted money from several sources without properly disclosing it, but he was acquitted of most of those charges.

Two of the charges on which he was acquitted involved receiving payments from companies in which Abbruzzese was the controlling investor, and the defense says those payments shouldn’t be mentioned in front of a jury at the next trial, even though they involve Bruno’s business dealings with Abbruzzese.

“Evidence regarding acquitted conduct should be excluded because it may cause the jury to confuse acquitted conduct with the offenses charged,” wrote Dreyer, who is representing Bruno along with E. Stewart Jones Jr. of Troy.

Bruno, who lives in Brunswick, has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying the payments were legitimate business-consulting fees. He resigned from office in 2008 amid a lengthy FBI investigation of his activities and since then has kept a generally low profile other than when in court.

Because of his leadership position, Bruno at the time was one of the most powerful men in state government. He used his influence to steer state money to starting the Luther Forest Technology Campus and other regional economic development projects.

Many Capital Region residents still regard Bruno as a local hero for the state-funded projects he supported.

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