Bruno Convicted of Corruption
ALBANY — Joseph L. Bruno, the former Senate majority leader, was found guilty Monday afternoon of taking payments from a business executive and failing to disclose a secret financial partnership with the businessman.
After seven days of deliberating, the jury in Mr. Bruno’s federal corruption trial handed down a guilty verdict on the two felony counts. They found Mr. Bruno not guilty on five counts and could not reach a verdict on another count.
Mr. Bruno faces up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine on each felony count. He is sure to appeal, and the Supreme Court is poised to review the controversial “theft of honest services” statute underlying his case.
The verdict capped a month-long trial that captivated the state political establishment and laid bare the unseemly side of New York’s Legislature, where most lawmakers hold down second jobs in the private sector but are required to disclose very little about what they are paid to do.
Prosecutors contended that Mr. Bruno had failed to disclose conflicts between his private business dealings and his official business as Senate majority leader, the powerful post that he held for almost 14 years before retiring in 2008 amid a federal investigation. They also say he used a sham consulting business as a way to conceal the true nature of his business interests.
Prosecutors brought forward more than 70 witnesses and a trove of over 200 e-mail messages as well as handwritten notes, calendar entries and memoranda, many culled from the historically secretive State Senate, which Republicans controlled under Mr. Bruno but lost control of last fall.
The trial also delved intimately into Mr. Bruno’s private business, which spanned work for more than a dozen companies during more than a decade and a half, earning Mr. Bruno roughly $3.2 million in fees.
He earned the bulk of that money soliciting pension fund investments from labor unions with interests before the Senate, while failing, prosecutors said, to fully disclose his ties to the firm — Wright Investors’ Service — that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars to drum up business. Mr. Bruno worked at the firm for almost his entire tenure as majority leader, resigning his second job in December 2007, shortly after The New York Times disclosed Wright’s ties to a host of Albany-area labor unions.
Prosecutors also contended that Mr. Bruno used his Senate power to benefit an array of other businesses, including an Albany-area technology company that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and a contracting company owned by an old friend, who employed him as a management consultant.
Mr. Bruno did not take the stand in his own defense, instead deploying only seven witnesses, including friends and former business associates, to bolster his case. Characterizing Mr. Bruno as a victim of overzealous prosecutors, his lawyers portrayed him as a devoted public servant who tried to faithfully adhere to the law, routinely seeking the advice of Senate ethics lawyers.
His lawyers relied chiefly on cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, seeking to unravel the links prosecutors drew between Mr. Bruno’s official acts and the business he brought in for his clients, which included state grants as well as pension fund investment.
The official benefits Mr. Bruno delivered for those who did business with his clients, Mr. Bruno’s lawyers argued, was indistinguishable from the legislative action and earmarks he sought for all his constituents, driven by a sincere desire to create jobs and help working people.
From the NY Times. Commentary and developments to follow from Atlas.