ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - Former New York State Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno on Friday was acquitted of charges that he accepted bribes from a local businessman that were disguised as consulting fees.
A jury in federal court in Albany deliberated for about five hours on Thursday and Friday before acquitting Bruno of two counts of honest services mail fraud.
Prosecutors claimed that Bruno, 85, accepted $360,000 from businessman Jared Abbruzzese from 2004 to 2006 but never did any consulting work for him. In exchange, they claimed, Bruno steered state grants to a business owned by Abbruzzese. Bruno was also accused of accepting $80,000 from the businessman for a “worthless” race horse.
Bruno, a Republican from Rensselaer County, was the Senate majority leader and one of the most powerful politicians in New York from 1995 to 2008.
A jury in 2009 found Bruno guilty of the same charges, but the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2011 overturned the conviction. The appeals court, however, found that there was enough evidence for prosecutors to re-try Bruno without violating his right against double jeopardy.
After Bruno’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 ruled in two separate cases that the honest services fraud law was too vague unless prosecutors could prove that an official received a bribe. The 2nd Circuit pointed to those rulings in overturning Bruno’s conviction.
After Bruno’s conviction, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 ruled in two separate cases that the honest services fraud law was too vague unless prosecutors could prove that an official received a bribe. The 2nd Circuit cited those rulings in overturning Bruno’s conviction.
Bruno’s attorneys and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of New York did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is USA v. Bruno, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, No. 1:09-cr-0029.
Reporting by Dan Wiessner; Editing by Ted Botha and Andrew Hay nL1N0O2124