ALBANY, N.Y. – A federal jury has found former state Senate leader Joe Bruno not guilty on both counts of honest services mail fraud.
On Thursday, the prosecution and defense rested, but not before the prosecution called its evidence overwhelming and told the jury that a true and just verdict in Bruno's trial is guilty. The defense told the jury there are no facts or evidence to support the government’s case, saying “don’t let an innocent man go to jail.”
On Wednesday, witness Heather Mowat, an analyst with senate finance and handled gaming and racing issues, took the stand. She testified that NYRA was in dire financial straits and toward the end of every session would visit the Capitol, explaining that if they didn't get state money, they'd have to go into bankruptcy.
Mowat worked closely with Bruno when he was the senate majority leader.
Charles Hayward, who is the former president of NYRA, said on Tuesday that Bruno wanted both co-chairs of NYRA out of the job. Instead, the senator said he wanted a private entity, not NYRA, overseeing thoroughbred racing in New York.
The last witness took the stand for the defense on Wednesday afternoon. Jon McCloskey, who previously worked in the assembly and on a joint task force on racing, told the jury Bruno couldn't single handedly pass a bill or change a law.
Prosecutors say businessman Jared Abbruzzese had created that private entity. They are trying to show the jury that the senator accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from Abbruzzese, not for consulting, but in exchange for his official acts.
Later, Jim Featherstonhaugh, a well-known lobbyist and longtime friend of Bruno, took the stand. He told the jury that consultants don’t necessarily turn in written reports, but he also admitted you wouldn’t want to hire a decision maker like a legislator at a consultant.
He said it “creates a conflict of interest.”
Bruno has been charged with two counts of honest services mail fraud. He declined to testify during the trial.