Telecommunications businessman Jared Abbruzzese emphatically denied ever trying to bribe or buy the influence of former state Senate leader Joseph Bruno during testimony today in federal court.
"Absolutely not," "no," and no, or ever, ever ever," he said in response to a series of questions about bribery, kickbacks or influence-buying from Bruno defense attorney E. Stewart Jones of Troy.
The exchange came at the end of day of testimony in which Abbruzzese was the only witness. Though called as a prosecution witness, Abbruzzese often sparred with Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak, and was twice cautioned by Judge Gary L. Sharpe about giving lengthy and digressive answers.
Bruno, 85, of Brunswick, is on trial in U.S. District Court on two counts of honest services fraud, in his second trial on the charges. Prosecutors contend the powerful Republican accepted $440,000 in compensation from Abbruzzese in 2004 and 2005 as a form of bribe or kickback for legislative favors.
The businessman, who then lived in Loudonville, had invested in a company with interested before state government, as well as having an interest in privatizing the state horse racing franchise, prosecutors contend.
Abbruzzese began paying Bruno $20,000 a month as a "consultant" after Bruno approached him while flying home from a Florida golf trip aboard a private jet in February 2004, Abbruzzese testified. The men had been playing cards with two other trip participants, and when Abbruzzese got up to go to the galley, he testified that Bruno followed him to bring up privately.
"I didn't think it was appropriate at that point," Abbruzzese testified.
However, over the next week or so the men did reach an agreement, though Bruno initially sought $30,000 or $40,000 per month, Abbruzzese said. Abbruzzese said he also told Bruno during his initial approach that he wanted to be sure hiring a state legislator was legal.
"I wanted to make sure it was doable legally, ethically and everything else," Abbruzzese said.
Abbruzzese owned several telecommunications technology companies, and said he decided to hire Bruno for the doors he could open and potential business opportunities he could bring.
Abbruzzese's cross-examination will continue at 10 a.m. tomorrow.