Joe Bruno found not guilty

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Joe Bruno. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—A jury has found Joe Bruno, an 85-year-old former majority leader of the New York State Senate, not guilty on a two-count indictment.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Bruno defrauded the public of its right to honest services when he solicited and accepted a $20,000 per month consulting agreement from Loudonville telecom entrepreneur and consultant Jerry Abruzzese.

The government said Bruno did no work for the payments, which were traded for official favors “as opportunities arose” as part of a “quid pro quo bribery scheme.” They said Abbruzzese sought to take over racing in New York State and benefited when Bruno aides helped send state pork funding to a company.

The Troy-area Republican's defense attorneys said there was never any explicit agreement or suggestion that Bruno offer any official favors, and that his services were intangible.

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“I'm just thanking the good Lord, thanking our family, thanking our counsels," Bruno told reporters outside the courthouse. “I cannot describe to anybody what it feels like to have the government, federal government, day and night on your mind—that their mission is to put you in prison. That's hard to go to bed at night, and it's pretty hard when you get up in the morning. But the system works.”

The federal bribery statute does not require an explicit quid pro quo for conviction, and a federal appeals court affirmed that there was potentially enough evidence in the government's case to merit a re-trial.

Bruno was convicted of two counts in 2009, but it was overturned when the Supreme Court narrowed the honest services statute under which he had been charged.