Breaking news: Bruno guilty of corruption
A jury convicted former New York Senate leader Joseph Bruno of two corruption counts Monday, determining that he illegally traded on his position as one of the state’s most powerful politicians to enrich his personal fortune.
Bruno, 80, faced eight fraud charges in a corruption trial that exposed Albany’s practice of influence-peddling by lawmakers. The jury convicted Bruno of two counts of mail fraud; acquitted him of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud; and could not reach a decision on another mail fraud count.
Prosecutors accused Bruno of denying New Yorkers his honest services while making $3.2 million by using his state influence. He consulted for three businessmen and solicited union pension investments from labor unions on behalf of two companies.
“It goes without saying that I’m very, very disappointed in the verdict I just heard. The legal process is going to continue,” said Bruno after the verdict. “In my mind and in my heart, it’s not over till it’s over.”
Bruno was a state senator from Rensselaer County for 32 years, the last 13 as leader of the Senate’s Republican majority, until retiring in 2008. As majority leader, he was one of Albany’s oft-criticized “three men in a room,” a potent trio that includes the governor and Assembly speaker. The three control patronage hiring, the allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars and all legislation.
Prosecutors argued that Bruno was required to publicly disclose his business interests and associates, who benefited from positions Bruno took on legislation and grants.
Many of New York’s 212 lawmakers, who make at least $79,500 in their part-time jobs, have outside employment. Bruno and his attorneys argued that the federal court was the wrong place to put on trial that entire system, where conflicts of interest are inevitable. They said Bruno did not put his own interests before the public’s and that any conflicts or perceived conflicts were insignificant.
The jury heard three weeks of testimony from more than 70 witnesses. Bruno declined to testify, instead standing in front of cameras on the courthouse steps confidently repeating that he had done nothing wrong.
Bruno was released on his own recognizance. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe declined requests by prosecutors that Bruno turn in his passport.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Pericak declined immediate comment.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 31. Defense lawyer William Dreyer said he would file a motion to dismiss the conviction and, if that fails, would appeal.
Prosecutors have said they want restitution but haven’t yet calculated the precise amount, or the potential prison term. Authorities initially said he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.
Bruno was convicted of mail fraud for checks sent by Communication Technology Advisors and Capital & Technology Advisors to Capital Business Consultants, Bruno’s later consulting company. The companies’ majority owner was Jared Abbruzzese, a Bruno friend and business associate. Bruno sponsored state grants for Evident Technologies, a company in which Abbruzzese was an investor.
Bruno also was convicted of mail fraud for a $40,000 check sent from Bazaguma LLC, Abbruzzese’s thoroughbred business, to Business Consultants, Bruno’s consulting firm, for a foal that came from a joint breeding venture by Bruno, Abbruzzese and a third partner.
The jury failed to reach a decision on a count of mail fraud for checks mailed by VyTek Wireless Inc., a company partly owned by Leonard Fassler, addressed to Business Consultants.