Former New York state Senator Joseph L. Bruno, who served as Republican majority leader, failed to win dismissal of corruption charges on the grounds that he would unconstitutionally be tried twice for the same crimes.
Bruno is accused of accepting as much as $440,000 from former TerreStar Networks Inc. chairman Jared E. Abbruzzese and companies he was affiliated with in exchange for political favors. After his conviction was thrown out in 2011 in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bruno faced a new indictment in Albany, New York, over the same allegations in 2012.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled today that the government could proceed with its charges because they are now based on a theory of bribery and kickbacks rather than the earlier theory of a conflict of interest.
“Bruno was convicted of the offenses that are now the subject of the retrial,” the court said in its ruling today. The convictions are significant because “the jury found that Bruno possessed the requisite intent to devise a scheme to defraud.”
The earlier convictions were vacated following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the case of former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling. The Supreme Court said the honest-services law criminalizes schemes involving bribes or kickbacks, not the failure to disclose conflicts of interest.
Bruno, a Republican, was elected to the state Senate in 1976 and served until 2008, when he resigned amid a federal corruption investigation. He served as Senate majority leader for almost 14 years.
In a court appearance in May 2012, Bruno pleaded not guilty and was released, according to court documents.
Bruno solicited payments from Abbruzzese, who directed that several companies pay Bruno a total of $440,000, prosecutors said in a statement. The payments were disguised as “consulting” fees, and $80,000 was for a “virtually worthless” horse, the government said.
In exchange, Bruno performed official acts benefiting the interests of the businessman and his companies, including directing the award of a $250,000 grant to Evident Technologies Inc. and a $2.5 million grant to colleges for the benefit of the company, the government said.
William Dreyer, a lawyer for Bruno, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling. Abbruzzese served as a witness for the government in the 2009 trial, according to court records.
The case is U.S. v. Bruno, 09-00029, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York.
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