Joe Bruno

Bruno Found Not Guilty In Second Trial

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was found not guilty of federal corruption charges on Friday.

The trial was the second for Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican, whose first conviction on theft of honest services charges was overturned following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Federal prosecutors successfully sought a second trial for Bruno on charges that he received bribes from a businessman in exchange for official acts, such as providing access to key state officials and providing lucrative state contracts.

In particular, prosecutors had focused in on Bruno receiving $360,000 in consulting fees, along with $80,000 for a valueless racehorse while backing businessman Jared Abbruzzese interests in thoroughbred racing.

Bruno had served as majority leader in the Senate for 14 years before leaving the Senate in June 2008.

Bruno Lawyers Want An April Trial

Lawyers for former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno requested in a letter to federal Judge Gary Sharpe that his corruption trail be postponed to April so the Rennselaer County Republican could recover from cancer surgery.

Federal prosecutors who are prosecuting the 84-year-old Bruno in a subsequent letter to not object, but are pushing for a Feb. 3 trial date. They noted in the letter that an October letter from Bruno’s doctor estimated he would need 90 to 120 days to recover from the September surgery.

A spokesman for Bruno previously announced the former senator was in recovery after a tumor was removed from his kidney in September.

The upcoming trial would be Bruno’s second on bribery charges. A 2009 conviction was vacated following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the theft of honest services charges Bruno was found guilty under.

Bruno was the Republican majority leader in the Senate from 1994 through his resignation in June 2008.

The letters, filed with the U.S. District Court in Albany last month, are below.

Bruno Trial Docs by Nick Reisman

Bruno Trial Docs 2 by Nick Reisman

Bruno Undergoes Cancer Surgery

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno is resting comfortably after undergoing surgery at a Manhattan hospital earlier today to remove a large cancerous tumor from his right kidney.

Bruno’s long time spokesperson John McCardle tells us the surgery took place today at Memorial Sloan Kettering. The 84-year-old Rensselaer County Republican is now with his family and “looking forward to continuing his recovery,” McArdle said.

This is Bruno’s second bout with cancer. He was successfully treated for prostate cancer back in 2003.

The former senator, who retired from office in 2008, is scheduled to go to trial in federal court in Albany this December. This is the second time he will be tried on federal corruption charges.

Appeals Court: Bruno Case Can Proceed

A new corruption trial for former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno can proceed after an appeals court ruled the case doesn’t present a double jeopardy and rejected his appeal.

Bruno was sentenced to two years in prison, but the ruling was called into question after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the statute under which the Rensselaer County Republican was convicted, theft of honest services.

A four-page order issued this morning unanimously rejected Bruno’s argument that the case presented a double jeopardy, essentially backing federal prosecutors’ call for a new trial.

Bruno faces bribery and honest services fraud charges.

A new trial for Bruno was originally scheduled for Feb. 3, but was postponed after his defense team sought to have the case tossed entirely on the basis of the double jeopardy position.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, however, wasn’t convinced.

“We see no merit to Bruno’s argument because, unlike the cases on which he relies, Bruno was convicted of the offenses that are now the subject to the retrial,” the ruling states. “While Bruno argues that the now-vacated convictions should be considered a non-event and the jury’s determinations on those counts should be ignored, there is no legal or factual support for this proposition.”

Here’s the ruling:

158453841-Second-Circuit-Opinion-—-Bruno by Nick Reisman

Mallick’s Senate Return

Mary Louise Mallick, a veteran Senate staffer during the Joe Bruno years, is returning to the chamber – this time to work for the IDC.

IDC spokesman Eric Soufer confirmed Mallick, who is currently working in state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office, will be joining the conference as its finance director starting next week.

He also forwarded the following quote from IDC Leader Jeff Klein:

“Mary Louise is one of the sharpest, most experienced budget professionals in Albany. I know she will be a tremendous asset to the IDC, so I look forward to her joining our team.”

Mallick will be a member of the IDC’s senior staff, along with Soufer, John Emrick (chief of staff), Dana Carotenuto (policy director and deputy chief of staff), and Shelly Andrews (counsel).

(NOTE: To be clear, I’m told Emrick will still be the IDC’s main person “in the room” during budget talks).

Mallick’s first day at her new post will be Tuesday, which means she’ll be arriving just as budget negotiations – the first ever for the IDC – shift into high gear.

Mallick served as Senate finance secretary when Bruno was majority leader. In her new position, she’ll be working opposite her former deputy, Robert Mujica, who is now the Senate GOP’s chief of staff and finance secretary.

She left the Senate at the end of 2006 to serve as acting executive director of UAlbany’s Biosciences Development Corporation, and a year later went to work for DiNapoli as deputy comptroller for budget and policy analysis.

She eventually rose to the title of “first deputy comptroller.”

But Mallick was bumped from that position by DiNapoli in late 2010 to make room for his former Assembly colleague, Pete Grannis, after he was booted from his job as DEC commissioner by then-Gov. David Paterson.

At the time, DiNapoli gave Mallick the title of “senior policy advisor.”

Reached for comment late yesterday, Mallick referred all questions to the IDC.

Judge Won’t Dismiss Bruno Case

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe refused to dismiss former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s corruption case, setting up the potential for another trial for the Rennselaer County Republican.

Bruno’s first convictions were tossed out when the Supreme Court gave an intrepertation of the “theft of honest services” charge that Bruno had been initally found guilty of in 2009.

But federal prosecutors brought new charges against the 83-year-old ex-senator, and a federal appellate court ruled prosecutors can move forward with a quid pro quo case against him.

Bruno’s lawyers argued unsuccessfully to Sharpe that a new trial constitutes a violation of the Constitution’s double jeopardy provision, but Sharpe disagreed.

“… the exception is too broad insofar as it enables a defendant to delay the timely administration of justice by simply raising double jeopardy,” Sharpe wrote in the ruling.

Bruno’s lawyers have up to two weeks to appeal the ruling based on the double jeopardy argument.

Bruno.ruling

Bruno: McDonald Did The Right Thing, Cuomo’s Letter ‘Courageous’

Republican former Senate Majority Leader Bruno this morning said Sen. Roy McDonald did the right thing when he decided not to press forward with his campaign after losing the GOP ballot line to Kathy Marchione.

“I give Roy credit for stepping aside and saying the people have spoken,” Bruno told Fred Dicker on his Talk-1300 radio show. “It’s important we keep this a Republican seat and keep balance in the state Legislature.”

McDonald, who represents the Saratoga County-area seat that Bruno held, announced in a statement Thursday he was dropping his bid, but remains on the November ballot on the Independence Party line. McDonald’s decision came a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, pledged to support the Republican’s third-party bid should he move forward.

Concerns over balance in the Legislature is a frequent GOP talking point. The Assembly Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, who have been in the minority since the fallout of the Watergate scandal.

Republicans, meanwhile, hold a 33-29 majority in the chamber, regaining it after a two-year term in the minority. The Senate is the last lever of power Republicans in New York control and the concern was a three-way race in the 43rd Senate District could add uncertainty to the GOP holding the chamber.

Claverack Supervisor Robin Andrews is the Democrat in the race.

Bruno, who now supports same-sex marriage after years of opposing even civil unions, called McDonald’s vote in favor of the 2011 law “principled.”

He said the measure didn’t have anything to do with religion given the exemptions (which were crafted by Republican lawmakers in order to allow a vote on the bill in the chamber) and said it was really just another name for civil unions.

He called Cuomo’s letter “courageous” and praised the governor for crossing party lines to pledge his support.

Bruno denied he urged the two-term lawmaker to continue his campaign.

“I talked to Roy and said what you have to do is really what you think in your heart,” Bruno said. “Kathy Marchione is a hard campaigner, a great public servant.”

The former lawmaker added that Marchione, the Saratoga County clerk, is someone he’s known since she was a teenager and a “hard campaigner.”

“She was a very worthy challenger and she delivered her message how she would govern,” Bruno said.

The former lawmaker, who was indicted on a new set of federal corruption charges following the outcome of a rather complex Supreme Court ruling on his theft of honest services charges, said he was “just following the legal process.”

Bruno decried federal prosecutors for spending “$25 million” on the investigation and prosecution.

 

Feting Joe Mondello (Updated)

One of the New York delegation members forwarded this photo from an event celebrating Nassau County GOP Chairman Joe Mondello, who is apparently the longest-serving party county leader in the state.

photo-19

Mondello has held his local post for 27 years, according to his bio on the Nassau County GOP website.

UPDATE: As per a commentor, Mondello will mark 30 years as chairman next May. Apparently, the website is very far out of date.

He also served as state GOP chairman from 2006 to 2009, following the late Monroe County GOP Chairman Steve Minarik, who stepped down after a disastrous election year for the party in which it lost every single statewide race for the first time in 60 years and also saw three House seats go Democrat.

Mondello got the post largely due to his close relationship with former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. (Their alliance dates back to 1994 when Bruno ousted a Long Islander, the late Ralph Marino, from the majority leader seat with Mondello’s support).

Mondello lost the support of the party rank-and-file himself in 2009 and was ousted from the state GOP chairmanship by Ed Cox.

Mondello, along with most of the New York Republican establishment supported former Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek, but Cox out-worked him (his most prominent supporter was Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos) and won the chairmanship.

This is the second event honoring Mondello held here in Clearwater. Yesterday former US Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, also a Long Islander, hosted a luncheon for the chairman.

Bruno Misses Silver, Disses Spitzer, Praises Cuomo

While we wait for news other than weather updates to come out of the GOP convention (Day One is canceled, if you haven’t already heard, and there’s a state of emergency in Florida, thanks to Isaac)…

A little state news, compliments of Frank Morano, who interviewed former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno last week on his AM 970 show, THE ANSWER, and forwarded copy to CapTon.

Morano happened to catch up with Bruno, who is awaiting his second trial on federal corruption charges, the same day news broke about Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s sexual harassment scandal.

The former majority leader said he hadn’t yet heard about the Lopez mess because he had been traveling and not paying attention to the news. He did comment on Albany scandals in general, however, saying:

“It certainly does undermine the public trust any time anyone in public office is accused of any malfeasance in office – whatever it is.”

“And unfortunately, there’s kind of a built in bias by a lot of people against people in elective office.”

“…Being in public office is a real sacred trust in my mind, and most people in public office try to do the best thing that they can do by their constituents. They’re all human, they’re all fallible.”

Morano asked Bruno during the nearly 20-minute interview for his thoughts on Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The former senator responded that he thinks the governor is doing “remarkably well.”

“He’s dealing with the politics of managing this state, I think, better than most people have in our memories, and that’s to his credit,” Bruno added.

“I think President Obama can take a lesson from what is going on here with Governor Cuomo in terms of coalescing with the opposing party. Senate controlled Republican, Democrat-controlled assembly, and yet the governor gets a lot of things done.”

“And that’s by working together partnering, and that’s by recognizing that politics are politics but governing is what it’s all about.”

Bruno scoffed at criticism that the Cuomo administration lacks transparency, and was particularly dismissive of barbs tossed at the governor by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer (Bruno’s one-time political nemesis).

Specifically, Morano asked Bruno for his thoughts on the dust-up over Cuomo’s removal from public view of a document in the State Archive related to his AG investigation of Troopergate – the scandal sparked by Spitzer’s misuse of the State Police in hopes od smearing the former majority leader.

“Eliot Spitzer is the last person on this earth that ought to be critical of anyone for coverups, for not having full disclosure,” Bruno chuckled.

“I mean it is ludicrous – that’s the word that comes to my mind – for somebody like him to be accusing a governor or anyone else for what he was probably most guilty of.”

Toward the end of the interview, Morano asked Bruno who he misses most from his Capitol days – Speaker Silver or former Gov. George Pataki. Bruno replied:

“I really miss them both.”

“I had a great relationship with the governor…and Speaker Shelly Silver really does an outstanding job, whether anybody relates or not to his politics, he does an outstanding job of leading the Democrat-controlled Assembly, which is not an easy task because there are so many members in that conference.”

“If I miss anything, it’s probably the communication with people like Shelly, like Andrew Cuomo when he was AG, and certainly George Pataki and (Majority Leader) Dean (Skelos) and the rest.”

“So that’s part of what you miss in life as you move on with your life.”

You can listen to the full interview here and here.

Tempest In A Troopergate Teapot? (Updated)

Below you will find, compliments of the TU’s CapCon, the Troopergate-related memo Gov. Andrew Cuomo so desperately wanted to keep from public view that he sent two top aides to the state Archives to remove it from the cache of documents there that date back to his four-year term as state attorney general.

The removal occurred AFTER TU reporters Jimmy Vielkind and Jim Odato had already photocopied the document, which they in a box of notebooks that had been kept by Ellen Biben, who ran the Public Integrity Bureau when Cuomo was attorney general, was elevated to the postition of state inspector general when he became governor and is now the executive director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

The New York Times reported this morning that the Archives told its reporters in June that it had no Troopergate documents. Archives spokesman Dennis Tompkins later said was a mistake.

Archives officials told the TU in May that there was indeed a Troopergate folder in their possession, but it was removed from public view by the Cuomo administration – specifically, Linda Lacewell – because it fell under the categories of documents that the Freedom of Information Law deems protectable.

Former AG/Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was the target of the Troopergate investigation (remember: it all stems from the then-governor’s efforts to use the State Police to track the use of state aircraft by his political nemesis, then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, in hopes of catching him breaking the rules), told the Times he was “deeply troubled” by Cuomo’s treatement of this document, which he believes “would reflect upon the underlying integrity of a report that I always viewed to be fundamentally flawed.”

And that sparked yet another round of tit-for-tat between Cuomo and Spitzer, whose animosity dates back to the days when the former was a hard-charging, up-and-coming secretary of HUD and the latter was a hard-charging, up-and-coming AG.

The funny thing about all this is that the document in question isn’t the smoking gun, bombshell sort of thing that you would expect merits this sort of treatment.

It is indeed interesting – especially for those of us who covered the Troopergate mess and know all the players.

The memo documents how Cuomo’s office went about trying to prove that Bruno’s claim that his use of state aircraft at the taxpayers’ expense was justified because he mixed state business with political activities.

Cuomo’s office interviewed a number of lobbyists and people with business interests before the state with whom Bruno said he met, including Ken Riddett, a former top aide to Bruno; former US Sen. Al D’Amato (a longtime Bruno ally and GOP donor); and Pat Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and employer of Darren Dopp, Spitzer’s former chief spokesman who was the first Troopergate victim.

As far as I can tell, none of these people were placed under oath. As you’ll recall, Cuomo didn’t have subpoena power while conducting this report. (The AG does NOT have subpoena power for public integrity cases, which is something Cuomo tried to change in the wake of Troopergate, but has declined to provide to his successor, AG Eric Schneiderman, now that he’s governor).

There is one problematic issue in the memo, which is May 18.

Apparently, Bruno took the state helicopter down to Manhattan on May 17, had a business lunch (attended by former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg, another Spitzer nemesis) and a business meeting (with lobbyist Bruce Gyory and his clients) and then attended a fund-raiser.

The next day, he took the helicopter home to the Capital Region, but engaged in no official business in NYC, which raised questions about whether that trip was appropriate.

Cuomo never mentioned that May 18 trip in the Troopergate report in which he pretty much exonerated Bruno, saying the rules governing the use of state aircraft were so porous as to be almost impossible to break, and excoriated Spitzer and his aides, accusing them of misusing the State Police to try to smear the majority leader and then lying to cover it up.

UPDATE: The administration points out that the May 18 conundrum IS in fact briefly mentioned in the report on P. 49. To wit:

“The investigation disclosed that the May 17, 2007 meetings at 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. related to legislative or official state business. No meetings were held on the following date, when the Senator and his staff used state aircraft to return to Albany. Thus, legislative business was conducted, but the balance of the days’ schedules was not dedicated to official state business.”

“Notwithstanding the limited nature of the legislative business conducted on some of the trips, there is no legal basis to conclude that Senator Bruno’s use of the state aircraft violated any state policy. It is plain, however, that in some instances the state’s permissive policy allowed the use of state aircraft in a manner that did not adequately protect taxpayer resources.”

In a 1,300-word letter to the TU, Cuomo’s communication’s director, Richard Bamberger, accuses the newspaper of trying to atone for its role in the Troopergate scandal by “manufacturing” a story about new evidence coming to light in the Troopergate mess.

Bamberger rips into the paper, and insists that Troopergate “has been exhaustively reviewed and put to rest,” and the governor is “proud of the Troopergate report which brought the truth to light without fear or favor to anyone.”

“We understand why you might want to undermine the Troopergate report even five years after its issuance, given your participation in the underlying events,” Bamberger wrote.

“But it would be shameful for you to compound your prior errors by making use of your news pages to try to rehabilitate your own image by manufacturing doubt about professional work done by career prosecutors in the public interest.”

That’s a classic shoot-the-messenger-to-muddy-the-water approach, but still doesn’t explain why, if the governor is so proud of – and confident in – the Troopergate report and all the work that went into it, his office went to such great lengths to keep a document related to it out of the public view.

070816 Lacewell Troopergate Memo