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Friday, December 11, 2009

Feds: Probes Ongoing

Feds: Probes ongoing
State lawmakers put on notice about scrutiny after Bruno conviction
The Albany Times Union by BRENDAN J. LYONS, Senior writer - December 11, 2009

ALBANY, NY -- Federal authorities who oversaw the prosecution of Joseph L. Bruno said they will continue to investigate allegations of corruption within the state Legislature, and that the FBI's resources for such cases have more than doubled in recent years. In an interview Thursday at the federal courthouse where Bruno was convicted by a jury this week on two felony counts, acting U.S. Attorney Andrew T. Baxter and John Pikus, special agent in charge of the FBI's Albany field division, said their probe of Bruno, which began five years ago, was hampered by New York's arguably porous ethics laws. "The state ethics and disclosure laws make it much harder for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute public corruption involving state officials,'' Baxter said. "There's just so little transparency in the legislative process that it takes an enormous amount of time and effort to uncover what really happened." Pikus took over leadership of the FBI's Albany field office in the summer of 2006, about seven months after agents opened an investigation of Bruno, the former state Senate majority leader. He said since then the number of agents who are assigned exclusively to public corruption cases have doubled to more than a handful. "It really is the state Legislature," Pikus said of where they are focusing. "The bureau understands that in any government form of the legislature there's going to be some allegations of wrongdoing and we are constantly on the outlook for that. I have the agents now, very experienced agents, working on information that's come to us and we're taking a look at it."

Assistant U.S. Attorney William C. Pericak, a co-prosecutor in the Bruno case with Elizabeth C. Coombe, was circumspect about whether other state lawmakers should be concerned with what happened to Bruno, who was convicted on two of eight counts in an indictment built on the federal honest services law. "I don't know," Pericak said. "It depends on who's paying them." The focus of the Bruno case was on payments the former senator received from a variety of companies or individuals who had an interest in his legislative duties, or his connections from his powerful majority leader post. He was convicted on two counts that related to his dealings with Jared E. Abbruzzese, a Loudonville businessman who became a millionaire from his efforts in the telecommuncations industry. Bruno and Abbruzzese also were partners in a horse-breeding partnership, which was the subject of one of the counts on which Bruno was convicted: Abbruzzese agreed to pay Bruno $80,000 for a prospective racehorse that prosecutors alleged was virtually worthless.

The trial of Bruno tore open the state's shadowy legislative ethics process, where lawmakers can seek opinions on their business affairs from a committee they help appoint and in a venue that is secret. But because of federal grand jury subpoenas the dealings of Bruno, the legal advice he received from Senate lawyers and the murky process by which he claimed no conflict of interest in his personal income was all were laid bare. Baxter said the Justice Department normally would defer to local or state prosecutors in cases of public corruption involving state and local government. But he said the structure of the state Legislature and the rules the elected officials created have made such referrals difficult. "In this case we decided the federal authorities needed to step in," Baxter said. "I think it would be easier for law enforcement at all levels to distinguish between corrupt politicians and politicians that are playing by the rules if there was more transparency in the state government process." Pericak added: "I think more transparency discourages bad behavior. In that sense, there's less of it but it's clearer."

The prosecutors said their office has made no decision on whether to retry Bruno on count three of the indictment, which relates to $468,000 in consulting fees Bruno received from a business associate, Leonard J. Fassler, whose various companies had an interest in state government contracts and Bruno's status as a top power broker. "We have not ruled that out," Baxter said. "We won't make a decision on a retrial until after the post-trial motions and we're further down the road." Bruno, 80, is scheduled for sentencing on March 31. Under federal guidelines he could face as much as three years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $250,00 on each count. However, federal judges have latitude in the sentences they hand down and Bruno could face punishment ranging from probation to many years in prison. Brendan J. Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at


Tired of Waiting said...

But will the feds really do anything about the real corruption in the court system around NYC

Anonymous said...


Westchester Braces for _____

A) the storm that never came..

B) anyone's guess.

Anonymous said...

Great idea.

Let's study the problem of corruption in New York.

Then they can write a report that can continue to be the model for the rest of the US.

New York need to stay on the cutting edge of corruption and misconduct.

Anonymous said...

Transparency...this is the code word for all employees, friends and witnesses of NY state government and judicial come forward and give up the truth and facts of these criminal operatives....yes...employees and others are being requested to call the FBI and tell what they know today!
Because transparency does not, cannot and never will exist, until the facts of misconduct are revealed by those closest to the culprits...IT BECOMES EVERYONE'S OBLIGATION TO THIS STATE AND COUNTRY TO ETHICALLY REPORT THESE CRIMES!

Anonymous said...

all they have to do is send the FEDS into the Attorney Grievance and tell the public we are accepting and investigating allegations of Attorney/Public Corruption and follow thru...
the pattern will emerge.....
they will all stop their crud immediately,if they know they will go to jail..............
send the FEDS into the courthouses also until they all get the idea, they have been doing this for so long, many do not know right from wrong!

Anonymous said...

how many can you keep prosecuting,
and send to jail, there is too many of them and they teach each other how to do it!
hope Bruno turns them all in!

Anonymous said...

Re-try Bruno on count 3
I think Bruno will call in favors to get the appealate court to throwout the charges. The judges in the appelate court might need a favor down the road.
Re-try him on all counts that the jury did not find him guilty.
He will be out in a few months anyway like Garson.

Anonymous said...

Re-try Bruno on count 3
I think Bruno will call in favors to get the appealate court to throwout the charges. The judges in the appelate court might need a favor down the road.
Re-try him on all counts that the jury did not find him guilty.
He will be out in a few months anyway like Garson.

Anonymous said...

that is a good idea, sorry Bruno,
but the corruption has to end....
you are just the man to do the job

Anonymous said...

keep dragging him in and out of court, keep making it cost him...
get the idea ,Bruno, the decent citizens are tired of it and the corruption, turn them in

Anonymous said...

There you have it..

The Feds are focusing on the Legislature.. not the 80,000 plus complaints from this site...

Anonymous said...

oops 89,100 complaints/tips

so sure... focus on the legislature...

Anonymous said...

I am inclined to let them lose the Honest Services Fraud... for the amount of time they sat on their collective @sses..

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:

               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2
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