On Friday (May 16), former New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno was acquitted in federal court in Albany on both counts of fraud with which he was charged. Thus, a nine-year-long effort by federal prosecutors to put Bruno in jail for abusing his power ended in ignominious defeat. And this defeat was delivered promptly: Jurors deliberated for less than three hours.
Bruno felt completely vindicated. He told reporters outside the federal courthouse on Broadway that “This system, it works; sometimes it’s slow, but it works.”
Bruno had been found guilty on two counts of fraud in 2009, but these convictions were overturned as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in a similar case. In a controversial move, prosecutors decided to try Bruno again, this time on two counts of fraud related to alleged bribery and a quid pro quo with a local businessman. This was controversial because prosecutors had explicitly argued in the first trial that this was a case of neither bribery nor a quid pro quo.
From the steps of the courthouse, Bruno and his entourage marched across Broadway and State streets to Jack’s Oyster House to celebrate; photos of the fun were quickly posted on Facebook and Twitter.
Thus began a victory tour for Bruno that brought him triumphantly back into the public eye. He was everywhere on local TV; on Monday (May 19) he returned to the New York State Capitol and was the guest for an entire hour on Fred Dicker’s Talk 1300 AM show Live From the State Capitol.
The editorial board of the Albany Times Union did not share in this lovefest. They wrote, sourly, “There you have it, New York: It is perfectly legal for an elected official to take tens of thousands of dollars a month from a businessman who has a clear interest in what that official can get government to do for him.”
Bruno was uninterested in what his old newspaper nemesis had to say, however. In a variation on a line attributed to a 1960s drug rehab-group’s founder (and later a staple on hippie T-shirts), Bruno repeatedly said, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”