ALBANY N.Y – The trial for former Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, facing two counts of Honest Services Mail Fraud, continues Friday.
Authorities say Bruno, 85, accepted payments from a Loudonville businessman between 2004 and 2006, to help push business pending before the state government. Bruno’s lawyers say the payments were for consulting fees only.
In 2009, Bruno was brought up on similar charges, but they were thrown out by the Supreme Court, ruling the prosecutors had to show that a bribe or kickback were involved.
Witnesses continued to take the stand as the Bruno trial enters its fifth day. And if it seems like some of the witnesses have had trouble recalling things, it may be because the alleged scheme began 14 years ago.
That’s when prosecutors say the seeds were planted, but it was between 2004 and 2006 that they say Joe Bruno, the former Republican State Senate Majority Leader arranged a consulting job with businessman Jared Abbruzzese, where he was paid $20,000 a month.
Abbruzzese took the stand for a second day Friday, denying that he hired the senator to obtain state money or influence NYRA. The businessman testified that he was after Bruno’s stature and fundraising ability, telling prosecutors the money wasn’t a bribe, and accusing them of trying to confuse things.
“I need to get this ordeal behind me. It has been just going on, way too long and it takes a toll, let me tell you,” said Bruno.
On Friday, Clint Ballinger was called to testify. He’s the founder of Evident, a nanotech startup company Abbruzzese helped finance. Prosecutors say Bruno helped secure a $1.5 million state grant for them. The senator allegedly signed off on a second installment of it just days after being hired by Abbruzzese.
Ballinger testified that he had no knowledge of that arrangement.