TROY, N.Y. — Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno will be sentenced Thursday afternoon on federal theft of honest services charges, ending the saga of his retirement and trial.
“It goes without saying that I am very, very disappointed with the verdict,” Bruno said after his conviction back on December 7th.
Since that day, Bruno has lived as a convicted felon.
Federal prosecutors want him to get 8 years behind bars, but Bruno's attorney wants him to serve 6 months, at most.
The story of Joe Bruno has been told over and over again. From his blue-collar upbringing in Glens Falls, Bruno was a champion boxer before he went on to a career as a successful businessman-politician who dodged the arrows of more than one hostile governor.
Along the way, Bruno delivered all manner of taxpayer-funded projects to the Capital Region, only to be done in by a federal jury that found him guilty on 2 of the 8 charges against him.
Those charges state Bruno accepted $200,000 for consulting work that he never performed; money that was supposedly a reward for steering some state grants to a company linked to businessman Jared Abbruzzese.
Attorney Steve Coffey is a friend and supporter of Bruno. Coffey says that at Bruno's advanced age, 81, and the fact that he has been convicted of non-violent crimes provide enough substantiation he should not serve jail time.
Paul Vandenburgh, a talk show host on local radio station TALK 1300AM, thinks differently. He has said for months that Bruno should serve prison time, no matter the former Senator's age.
“81 years is 81, and I understand that,” Vandenburgh said, “but Joe did the crime and now he has to do the time.”
Bruno's refusal during his trial to admit wrongdoing, and repeated clashes between the judge and Bruno's defense team did not augur well for the probation or 6 months jail time requested by Bruno's lawyer.
Instead, Bruno seemed to be pinning his hopes on the U.S. Supreme Court and its review of the so-called “honest services statute”, a law that might be overturned even before Bruno would be off to jail
“There is no question that the Supreme Court is going to be very critical of this law,” Coffey told NEWS10. “The question is how far are they going to go?
“If the Supreme Court rules that this statute, theft of honest services, is unconstitutional, then Bruno will have been convicted of a crime that is non-existent.”
Governor Paterson, a former political buddy of Bruno, now finds it awkward to even contemplate Bruno's predicament.
When asked Monday if he had any reaction to Bruno's upcoming sentence, Paterson paused before saying, “No.”
The governor said it would be “unethical” for him to comment on Bruno.
But former Governor George Pataki did comment. In a letter to the court, Pataki said while he does not condone any of Bruno's behavior, he urges the judge to remember that Bruno “did much to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”
On the flip side, activist Mark Lyman, who runs the Capital Region's Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told the judge that Bruno should “rot in jail,” further saying that everything Bruno did was “payback for some other benefit to his personal fiefdom in the Albany area.”
Bruno's sentencing goes down at 3 p.m. Thursday.