Joseph Bruno, once one of the most powerful political figures in New York, was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison on two federal fraud counts.
The 81-year-old Bruno was the Republican leader of the state Senate for 13 years, controlling that chamber's legislation and billions of dollars in spending. He was convicted Dec. 7 of using his office to help a businessman who paid him as a consultant and in a horse venture, violations of the federal honest services law.
Bruno was acquitted of five other counts involving accusations he used his position to help two other businessmen and two investment companies interested in handling union pension funds. The jury was unable to reach a decision on another count.
Bruno told friends and relatives after his sentencing that he'd be OK.
"It'll be all right," Bruno said. "It'll be fine."
Bruno, whose legal bills have been estimated at $2.5 million, didn't testify at trial but repeatedly told reporters he had done nothing wrong and was just another part-time legislator with an outside consulting business. He was asked after sentencing if he was sorry.
"I don't believe I have anything to apologize for," Bruno said. "I tried not to break any laws."
Prosecutors urged eight years in prison, saying that was at the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines. The defense requested probation and a fine, saying Bruno had no prior criminal record, had a long history of public service in government and charity and had compromised health, including recovery from prostate cancer.
Bruno has agreed to pay $280,000 in restitution. Defense attorney William Dreyer said they will appeal.
As leader of the Republicans, who controlled the Senate for four decades until 2009, Bruno was considered one of the three most powerful figures in Albany. Along with the governor and Assembly Democratic leader, he was one of the so-called "three men in a room" who made all major decisions on New York laws, programs and other initiatives. Bruno stepped down in 2008 as friends and associates were being called to testify to a grand jury.
During his monthlong trial at the federal courthouse a half-mile down the hill from the Capitol, none of his former Republican colleagues showed up. A few Democratic senators occasionally did, sitting with Bruno's adult children and friends to show support.
"Joe Bruno treated me with respect during our time in the Senate, and I am sad for him and his family," said Senate Democratic leader John Sampson, of Brooklyn, after the sentencing.
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe, a former federal prosecutor, scolded Bruno during the trial, telling him this was one place he was not in charge. Bruno had made a comment to one of his lawyers criticizing one of the judge's rulings, and Sharpe said it was loud enough for him and possibly jurors to hear.
The U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing the honest services statute in three other cases, with a ruling expected by the end of June. Sharpe rejected a request by Bruno's attorneys to postpone sentencing until then.
Bruno will be out on bail until after the Supreme Court rules on the honest services statute. Sharpe said he would review the ruling and call the two sides back together within six weeks after the ruling.
Bruno will serve three years of supervised release after he is freed.
Associated Press writer Michael Gormley contributed to this report.
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