A jury of seven women and five men will start deciding the guilt or innocence of ex-state senate leader Joe Bruno this morning. They’re either going to find that he really was like that bully shaking down kids in the schoolyard with a guy named “Tiny” at his side – as the prosecutors told them yesterday. Or they’re going to rule that the government made “a federal case” out of a lot of “trivial differences” as Bruno’s lawyer argued in his own summation.
It’s good that lawyers sum everything up at the end because there was so much detail disclosed in the two-week trial about Joe Bruno’s peculiar approach to the task of representing the citizens of New York that few can remember it all.
The silver-haired horseman insists that he deserves acquittal, despite his multi-million-dollar profit while serving as Albany’s top powerbroker.
“I never betrayed any public trust,” he told reporters at the end of yesterday’s final session.
As the Albany Times-Union‘s Brendan Lyons puts it today, a good chunk of the jury’s decision will hinge on whether they’re convinced that the former senate leader was trying to hide his lucrative consultant clients or simply complying with a law that doesn’t require much disclosure.
Bruno listed just two consulting companies, writes Lyons, Business Consultants and Capital Business Consultants. “Testimony showed those companies had no employees other than Bruno, and that nearly all of the legal, administrative and bookkeeping work for his private businesses were done by Senate staffers.”
As assistant U.S. attorney William Pericak put it: “It was not a real business, it was an excuse … to avoid putting down the real names of the people paying Senator Bruno.”
Bruno’s lead defense lawyer is Abbe Lowell, who has made a specialty out of representing politicians who get in hot water. His clients have included Bill Clinton, Robert Torricelli, Charlie Wilson, and Gary Condit. He’s also defended a guy who used to call himself Sean Combs and a hammy actor named Steven Seagall.
Yesterday, Lowell brushed off the eight count indictment that charges Bruno with cheating his constituents out of the honest services to which they were entitled this way: “This is an indictment that seems to be in search of an actual crime.”