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Second Circuit Tosses Joseph Bruno Convictions, Retrial Granted

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned former New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno’s conviction on Wednesday, granting the fallen leader a retrial on federal corruption charges.

Bruno was convicted in 2009 on two counts of honest services mail fraud, but acquitted of five other honest services mail fraud counts. The court declared a mistrial on one count after a jury deadlock.

Prior to trial, Bruno moved to dismiss the indictment against him on the ground that the honest services statute was unconstitutionally vague as applied to cases charging only the nondisclosure of conflicts of interest. The district court denied the motion. Bruno again appealed following his conviction.

While Bruno's appeal was pending, the Supreme Court held in Skilling v. U.S. that the honest services statute criminalizes only fraudulent schemes effectuated through bribes or kickbacks, and does not criminalize mere failures to disclose conflicts of interest.

Prosecutors, who did not explicitly charge Bruno with accepting bribes, acknowledged that Bruno's convictions must be vacated, so the appeal before the Second Circuit focused on whether Bruno could be retried under Skilling on those counts as well as the deadlocked count.

In a unanimous opinion, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced this week that there was sufficient evidence for a retrial, noting that "A reasonable jury could conclude that Bruno deprived New York citizens of his honest services by accepting payments that were intended to and did influence his conduct as a public official."

While Bruno's attorneys have expressed hope that prosecutors will drop the case, the Second Circuit's opinion, which says that Bruno received $200,000 for "virtually non-existent consulting work" makes that seem unlikely. Prosecutors filed court papers seeking another trial for Bruno earlier this year, reports the AP.

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