The conviction of former state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno appears to be in jeopardy.
A Supreme Court ruling in favor of an imprisoned Enron honcho Thursday could exonerate a bunch of pols convicted of corruption - including ex-state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. The court ruled that a 20-year-old law against depriving the public or shareholders of "honest services" - a statute used to go after crooked politicians and corporate cheats - is too broad and vague. The court said the law can apply only when there's direct evidence of bribery or kickbacks. The dramatic narrowing of the fraud law could limit the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, free convicted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, as well as a host of shady small-time pols from Boston to San Diego; and overturn the verdict against Bruno. "The court has effectively gutted one of the most valuable federal laws to prosecute white collar criminals and elected officials who betray the public trust," said state Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan), who is running for attorney general. "This clearly puts the conviction of Joe Bruno in jeopardy." The 81-year-old Republican was convicted in December under the statute for using his clout to amass lucrative consulting fees from clients with business before the state. Bruno was accused of taking $200,000 in bogus consulting payments from companies controlled by businessman Jared Abbruzzese, who also gave the lawmaker $80,000 for a worthless racehorse. Bruno's trial revealed that he ran his side businesses from his Senate office and used taxpayer-paid staff to handle paperwork. Prosecutors never charged that he received any direct bribes or kickbacks. Instead, prosecutors focused on Bruno's conflicts of interest and failure to disclose them - violations not covered under the top court's ruling.