Bruno undergoes surgery for tumor
Impact on scheduled federal trial unclear
Updated 9:09 p.m.
ALBANY Former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is resting comfortably after having a cancerous tumor removed from his kidney Thursday, according to a spokesman.
This is the second battle with cancer in the past decade for Bruno, now 84, who is facing a second federal fraud trial in December, after being acquitted in 2009 of five fraud counts and convicted of two others that were later overturned on appeal.
He has denied any wrongdoing, but prosecutors allege Bruno, who was one of the most powerful men in the state when he was leading the Senate, accepted more than $400,000 from a businessman for helping with state grants.
Bruno was in Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center following his surgery and is looking forward to his recovery, said spokesman John McArdle.
In 2003, while still in office, Bruno was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent 42 radiation treatments and received hormone injections, with blood tests six month later showing he was free of cancer. At the time, doctors said the cancer was detected early enough that the prospects of recovery were excellent.
Two years later, he was still cancer-free, according to a blood test at the time.
Following his bout with prostate cancer, Bruno helped secure state funding in 2006 for a program that offered free prostate cancer screening to 4,000 high-risk men in the Capital Region.
It’s not yet clear how this latest surgery will impact Bruno’s ability to stand trial at the end of the year. U.S. District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe, who is presiding over the case, held an off-the-record conference Thursday with Bruno attorney E. Stewart Jones and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe.
This summer, Bruno’s legal team tried to prevent this second trial by arguing the second indictment constituted double jeopardy, but the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in August it was constitutional to charge Bruno again and Sharpe set a trial date of Dec. 2, with a final pretrial conference originally scheduled for Nov. 25, according to court documents filed in September.
In 2009, Bruno was found guilty by a jury of two counts of honest services fraud on allegations he had undisclosed conflicts of interest while serving in the Senate, including accepting money from friends who had business pending before state government. He was ordered to serve two years in prison but was allowed to remain free as he pursued his appeals.
The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently redefined the honest services fraud law to require proof of bribery or kickbacks. This allowed the 2nd Circuit to void Bruno’s convictions because it did not involve such proof.
Federal prosecutors obtained a new indictment in May 2012, however, alleging Bruno received $440,000 in payments from businessman Jared Abbruzzese between 2004 and 2006, including $80,000 in exchange for a “virtually worthless” horse. The government argues these payments — the same ones that led to Bruno’s conviction at his first trial — now meet the legal definition of a bribe or kickback.