Jury finds Joe Bruno not guilty - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Jury finds Joe Bruno not guilty

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Joe Bruno leaves court after not guilty verdict. (NEWS10 ABC) Joe Bruno leaves court after not guilty verdict. (NEWS10 ABC)
Bruno leaves court after verdict (NEWS10 ABC) Bruno leaves court after verdict (NEWS10 ABC)
ALBANY, N.Y. – A federal jury has found former state Senate leader Joe Bruno not guilty on both counts of honest services mail fraud.

A jury of nine women and three men found the now 85-year old not guilty after nearly nine years of allegations, a subsequent FBI investigation, a federal corruption trial, and now a retrial. The charges dated back to 2004, when prosecutors said Bruno accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from local businessman Jared Abbruzzese in return for his official acts. They allegedly included state grant money, a spot on the NYRA board and a chance to privatize the NYRA franchise.

It was the second federal corruption trial for the senator. Back in 2009 he was found guilty of these same charges, but they were later tossed out. Bruno had served in the senate for 32 years and says he's looking forward to putting this whole ordeal behind him.

"I dedicated my life primarily to public service, my adult life, so I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you," said Bruno. "I thank the good lord for answering our prayers and so many, others and others who've been there for me over these years, nine years. Ladies and gentlemen, nine years."

"They created a scenario that looked bad, but if you looked behind it and looked what actually happened and filled in the spaces and the blanks between those dates it became clear that nothing had occurred that was criminal,” said Bruno’s defense lawyer, E. Stewart Jones.

On Thursday, the prosecution and defense rested, but not before the prosecution called its evidence overwhelming and told the jury that a true and just verdict in Bruno's trial is guilty. The defense told the jury there are no facts or evidence to support the government’s case, saying “don’t let an innocent man go to jail.”

On Wednesday, witness Heather Mowat, an analyst with senate finance and handled gaming and racing issues, took the stand. She testified that NYRA was in dire financial straits and toward the end of every session would visit the Capitol, explaining that if they didn't get state money, they'd have to go into bankruptcy.

Mowat worked closely with Bruno when he was the senate majority leader.

Charles Hayward, who is the former president of NYRA, said on Tuesday that Bruno wanted both co-chairs of NYRA out of the job. Instead, the senator said he wanted a private entity, not NYRA, overseeing thoroughbred racing in New York.

The last witness took the stand for the defense on Wednesday afternoon. Jon McCloskey, who previously worked in the assembly and on a joint task force on racing, told the jury Bruno couldn't single handedly pass a bill or change a law.

Prosecutors say businessman Jared Abbruzzese had created that private entity. They are trying to show the jury that the senator accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Abbruzzese, not for consulting, but in exchange for his official acts.

Later, Jim Featherstonhaugh, a well-known lobbyist and longtime friend of Bruno, took the stand. He told the jury that consultants don’t necessarily turn in written reports, but he also admitted you wouldn’t want to hire a decision maker like a legislator at a consultant.

He said it “creates a conflict of interest.”


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