An Albany jury began deliberations Thursday in the retrial of former state senator Joseph Bruno on two federal honest services fraud counts for allegedly accepting a businessman’s bribes while serving as Senate majority leader.
In closing statements, Northern District Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe and defense attorney E. Stewart Jones accused each other of using half-truths and misrepresenting testimony during the trial, which began May 5 before Judge Gary Sharpe.
Coombe told jurors that Bruno did no work for businessman Jared Abbruzzese, for whom the former senator was a $20,000-a-month consultant between 2004 and 2006. Rather, Bruno improperly directed state grants to a company Abbruzzese had an ownership share in, the prosecutor maintained.
Jones, a Troy attorney, argued that Bruno was an experienced business expert who did bonafide and legal work on Abbruzzese’s behalf in exchange for consulting fees. Bruno insists that because a state senator’s job is part-time, he was within his rights to work outside the Legislature as a consultant (NYLJ, May 6).
Bruno, 85, was Senate majority leader from 1995 to 2008. He was convicted of theft of honest services mail fraud in 2009, but the conviction was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court retooled the legal standards behind the charge in Skilling v. United States, 130 U.S. 2896, in June 2010.