Joe Bruno indicted. Again.

joe bruno sentencing closeup crop
Joe Bruno after his sentencing in 2010

A federal grand jury returned a new indictment against Joe Bruno today in which he's accused of defrauding the state and its citizens of "the right to his honest services" by taking what federal prosecutors say were bribes and kickbacks during his time in the state Senate.

This is the federal government's second go-around with Bruno. He was convicted in 2009 on two counts under the "theft of honest services law" and sentenced to two years in prison.

Bruno never served that time because it was delayed until the Supreme Court heard cases challenging that theft of honest services law. SCOTUS' majority opinion on the law described it as "unconstitutionally vague." That led to Bruno's conviction being vacated, and federal prosecutors winding up to take another swing.

If you followed Bruno's original trial, you'll recognize elements of the new indictment. It alleges that Bruno solicited $440,000 from companies connected to a businessman from Loudonville, Jared Abruzzese. It alleges the money was disguised as pay for "consulting," and in one case Abruzzese bought a virtually worthless race horse from Bruno for $80k. The feds allege that money prompted Bruno to direct grants and preferential treatment to Abruzzese and associates. Where the original case focused specifically on fraud, this new indictment focuses on allegations of bribery and kickbacks.

The US attorney for this region, Richard S. Hartunian, argued today that Bruno's alleged actions still qualify as illegal, even under the new interpretation of the honest services law. (The US Attorney's Office press release is embedded below.)

As you can imagine, Bruno's attorneys don't share that view -- they argued today that the feds basically just turned in the same indictment they used last time except for substituting a few terms. Said E. Stewart Jones, who's representing Bruno, "Joe Bruno does not deserve this. He's done no wrong, he's done no harm, he's done nothing but good for this community." Jones alleged that the feds keep pursuing the case because "they can't tolerate someone standing up to them." [State of Politics] [@dannyhakim] [TU]

Joe Bruno?

If you're relatively new to the Capital Region you might be wondering why this guy's a big deal.

Joe Bruno was the state Senate majority leader. He represented a district that includes much of Rensselaer and Saratoga counties (the same district Roy McDonald now reps). He helped direct an enormous amount of state money to this area, benefiting a bunch of local projects -- including ALB and the Malta chip fab. The baseball stadium at HVCC is named after him. There's a bust of him at the airport. He was outspoken, funny, a character -- the Capital Region's leading man in the state politics soap opera.

Federal Indictment Joe Bruno 2012-05-03



Finish him off and then go for the other crooked pols.

I don’t see why it matters that he did “nothing but good” for the area. It wasn’t his money that he was dolling out to various local pork projects -- it was the taxpayer’s money. Big difference. Admittedly this is a touchy situation because Bruno is 83 years old and has clearly been harangued in the justice process the past few years, but the law is the law. As a side note, I noticed his old defense attorney Abbe Lowell is now defending John Edwards in his trial.

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