"Thank you, guys. We'll be fine," former State Senator Joseph Bruno told his daughters yesterday after being sentenced to two years in prison for wire and mail fraud. Judge Gary L. Sharpe's sentence was much lighter than the eight year bid prosecutors wanted, and the 81-year-old Bruno is in no immediate danger of going up the river because the Supreme Court still has to rule on the so-called "honest services" provision of federal fraud laws (more on that here). And if even if that ruling doesn't swing in his favor, there are always the appeals. But hey, at least he had to hear a stern reprimand from the judge:
"I know you don't believe you did anything wrong," Judge Sharpe told Bruno. "You're not sorry because you don't believe you did anything wrong... (But) you trampled on the integrity of the state Legislature." Which is like chiding a prostitute for having sex in a brothel, but fine. Indeed, Bruno still insists there was nothing corrupt about his cozy relationship with a Loudonville businessman who paid him $200,000 for consulting work he never performed, and taking $80,000 from the businessman for a horse that prosecutors said was worthless.
Before the sentencing, Bruno talked for a half hour in court about his "hardscrabble" upbringing, and the work ethic instilled in him by his father, whose face was scarred with burns from shoveling coal at a paper mill. "I grew up with my father saying: 'If you didn't earn it, it doesn't belong to you.' I can say this to you as honestly as I can say anything in my heart and mind: I did nothing wrong. Maybe I used bad judgment. Maybe I was a little cavalier in the way I handled my business judgments. ... I knew I wasn't bribed. I knew I didn't extort anybody."
The Times Union reports that Bruno's trial "provided an unprecedented look inside the state Legislature, which has exempted itself from the state's Freedom of Information Law and set its own rules allowing the public only limited or no access to its ethics opinions and financial disclosure forms." For more than 13 years, Bruno, a Republican, was considered one of the three most powerful figures in Albany, and that power still seems potent enough. According to the Daily News, after the sentencing, Bruno and his legal team strolled to the landmark downtown Albany restaurant where many of his shady deals went down. But on his way there, "a blue compact car slowed, and the driver rolled down his window and let Bruno know in rather crass terms that he did not think very much of him. Unruffled, Bruno walked up to the car, extended his right arm and shook the driver’s hand," the Times reports.