Updated 11/04/2009 05:41 AM
Jurors hear testimony in Bruno trial
Witness testimony began Tuesday in the federal corruption trial of former Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno. Steve Ference spent the day in federal court and has the latest developments.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "I just want to get the rest of this behind us because we broke no laws," said former Senate Republican leader Joe Bruno.
It was a packed courtroom on day two of Bruno's federal corruption trial. Prosecution witnesses detailed the murky nuances of lobbying as it leads to legislation - the question of what outside work constitutes a conflict of interest for part-time legislators, including Bruno.
"From what I know at this time, no I don't think he's any different," said lobbyist James Featherstonhaugh, who explained how lobbying shapes the Capitol agenda, setting up the next witness, Timothy McGinn, the chairman of McGinn, Smith & Company.
McGinn told jurors his investment company paid Bruno $24,000 the year before he became Senator majority leader, $72,000 after. He gave the analogy, "Tiger woods got more endorsements when he won the Masters."
Prosecutors tried to show Bruno's outside work was tied to his Senate influence, that Bruno allegedly steered unions and others to do business with McGinn, even as those groups had interest in pending legislation.
McGinn said, "The door was opened by Senator Bruno...We live in what I would characterize as an eat what you kill environment."
Legal expert Paul DerOhannesian said, "What the prosecution was trying to do is that this agreement said, look we will advertise you, we will have a dinner for you, we will have tombstone advertising for you, and none of that was done. The implication is, the defendant was trying to conceal the conduct.
But the defense countered that any concealment on Bruno's part is in the government's eyes only, that he sent on employment records not only to his attorneys, but also to the Legislative Ethics Committee.
Still, DerOhannesian said, "Very interesting here. Apparently there was a corporation to whom checks were being made. That corporation doesn't exist."
Outside court, Bruno was still confident.
"I'm a business man," said Bruno. "I had a perfect right to be in business."
These, just some of the details jurors will have to sift through, as they eventually judge Bruno, which could have far-reaching implications for New York State politics as is, part-time work and all.