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Former N.Y. Senate Leader Bruno Charged With Corruption Scheme

Joseph L. Bruno
Joseph L. Bruno, seen here as New York state Senate majority leader. Photographer: Daniel Barry/Getty Images

Joseph L. Bruno, the former New York state Senate majority leader whose conviction on corruption charges was thrown out last year, was indicted again by a federal grand jury.

Bruno was charged with depriving the state of his honest services through bribery and kickbacks and by using his official position for personal enrichment, U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian in the Northern District of New York said yesterday in a statement.

Bruno was convicted in 2009 of two counts of mail fraud for defrauding the state of its right to his honest services. A jury in Albany found he failed to disclose conflicts of interest connected to payments he received from people seeking to do business with the state.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan vacated the conviction, 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 yesterday, Bruno pleaded not guilty and was released, according to court documents.

`Vindictive Reaction'

``There is no legitimate purpose in charging Joe Bruno today in a new indictment,'' his lawyers, William Dreyer and E. Stewart Jones, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. ``This new effort by the U.S. attorney is a vindictive reaction to its loss of the long and tortured honest-services case against him.''

Bruno intends to vigorously defend himself against the ``scurrilous allegations,'' the lawyers said. ``He is now 83 years of age and hoped and prayed that this matter was behind him and that he could move on with his life,'' they said.

Bruno solicited payments from an Albany businessman who directed that several companies pay Bruno a total of $440,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the 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., the government said.

“We look forward to having an impartial jury consider this superseding indictment and the evidence in this case as soon as possible,” Hartunian said in his statement.

The case is U.S. v. Bruno, 09-00029, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York.

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