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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Swift Defense, Bad Memories

The testimony phase of the Bruno trial fizzled to an anticlimax on Friday with the announcement that the former Senate Majority Leader will not take the stand in his own defense. “I’m satisfied that all that has been said, has been said."

“We did what we were supposed to and earned our pay. I’m a businessman who was in a part-time legislative position. I had a perfect right to do business based on my experience and background." [Troy Record]
The defense testimony consisted of seven witness, and was seemingly all over and done with before one could say Jared Abbruzzese.
Most of the defense witnesses, who took up only a single afternoon of what has been a nearly three-week trial, were business partners and friends of the former senator, who collectively painted Mr. Bruno as an honest public servant and hardworking business executive who was eager to help others. [NY Times]
You can read accounts of the defense testimony in the abovelinkedto articles in the Times and Troy Record among other places; but barely a word about it in the Albany Times Union; not even in their blog devoted entirely to the subject.

The paper has never been a friend of Bruno's as you may recall, and as the Senator was always quick to point out. You many remember its role in the Troopergate scandal. You can probably figure out where I stand on Bruno, but let's be honest here. The Times Union's coverage of the trial has, in my opinion, been blatantly one-sided; in one article, reporter Robert Gavin went so far as to debunk testimony favorable to the defense.

I don't know how favorable Abbruzzese's testimony, the most headline-worthy of which was regarding his beat-down at the hands of Donald Trump, will be for the prosecution. He testified that the reason why nobody knew what Bruno was doing to earn his money was because he wasn't hired to do anything in particular.
"I wanted him for his Rolodex," Abbruzzese said, though he rejected Bruno's initial request for $30,000 a month.

The senator guided him on improving his skills in dealing with people, had no fixed consulting schedule and didn't produce any written work, he said. [WCBS-TV]
The prosecution went to great lengths to establish that Bruno's duties were mysterious. But here, Abbruzzese gave the jury a simple reason to reasonably doubt that the arrangements were as sinister and improper as the prosecution suggested. He also pointed out that the grants to Evident were initiated three years before Bruno was hired (and he complained that the state did not fully meet its commitment to the firm).

Better for the prosecution perhaps is the testimony from Bruno's former secretary that the Senator blithely conducted his personal business on government time. The Daily News reported on Nov 11 the following regarding Judge Gary Sharpe.
He blasted prosecutors for repeatedly suggesting potential quid pro quos when the case is really about whether Bruno mixed private business interests with public matters - and whether he failed to disclose his business interests.
Ms. Stackrow would seem to have firmly established the former; and the prosecution did produce union officials who testified that Bruno did not disclose his ties to Wright. In fact, one witness testified that Bruno's employment status was changed from consultant to part-time employee so that he did not have to. One defense witness was reported to have testified that Bruno's employment with Wright was "common knowledge." Still, I don't see where the defense otherwise effectively countered these points, unless it did so in the cross-examinations and the Times Union didn't report it. Summations are Monday. As for a guess on the verdict, I really have no idea. Any legal eagles out there with an opinion?

- With Abbruzzese's appearance no doubt sparking (bad) memories of Empire Racing, on the same day (as duly noted by several commenters), Tom Precious reported that AEG, in an obvious attempt to sabotage its rival, has circulated emails showing that some former Empire officials, including its former CEO Jeff Perlee, stand to reap rewards should SL Green be awarded the racino prize at the Big A (Abbruzzese also amongst them according to a couple of readers). Such an arrangement was hinted at in the company's lawsuit filed against Delaware North earlier this year. As you very well may recall (especially if you've been hanging around this site for the past few years), Perlee directed Empire's cynically deceptive and negative campaign to win the racing franchise, conspiring to sell out New York's simulcast signal to Magna and Churchill, and, as this horseman pointed out, deceiving the New York horsemen (with help from duplicitous directors like West Point Thoroughbred president Terry Finley) into gaining its backing. If you were already queasy about the presence of the Seminole tribe on the SL Green team due to its brazen flouting of the law in Florida, the news that Perlee stands to make $100,000 if SL Green gets the nod should make you want to puke.


Anonymous said...

Consider me vomit ready.

Disruntled NY Horseman

Anonymous said...

Alan your statement has captured the feelings of a lot of us here in Albany.

“If you were already queasy about the presence of the Seminole tribe on the SL Green team due to its brazen flouting of the law in Florida, the news that Perlee stands to make $100,000 if SL Green gets the nod should make you want to puke”.

Throw Abbruzzese into the mix and your statement would be even more correct. Also don’t forget Jeffrey Tucker, co-founder of the Fairfield Greenwich Group which is implicated in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme (though not charged with anything) as well as Empire Racing’s Chairman

I hope Governor Paterson’s people are reading this blog and then being responsible and reading it to their boss, especially because if the Bloodhorse article is true

“Gov. David Paterson still is leaning towards a bid offered by SL Green and Hard Rock Entertainment.”

Who could blame Delaware North for running away from Empire Racing and SL Green?

Let’s hope Governor Paterson does the same.

Anonymous said...

Holliday and SL Green must also now be regretting not running away from Abbruzzese, Perlee and Tucker and joining with Delaware North two years ago.

Not only would they not be in litigation now with Delaware North but would also have the VLT facility nearly built and operating together at Aqueduct by now........

Anonymous said...


Up State and NY thoroughbred racing are already missing Joe Bruno.

Lets hope and pray the result to come out of this court will be a good one for him.

Anonymous said...

Cannot agree more with the last blogger. New York (not just up state) is lessened by not having Joe Bruno as the Leader in the State Senate.

Good Luck Joe, our thoughts and hopes for your future success are with you.

Anonymous said...

Joe Bruno may have done a lot for both up state and for racing in this state. However I for one feel that he should pay a heavy price if he has betrayed the trust we voters have placed in him as an elected politician and leader.

Also, it is time to now sweep Speaker Silver out of office too if Jared Abbruzzese's allegations about him are true.

Jared, thank you for bringing this information about Speaker Silver to light. I wish more business men who have to deal with the NY State Legislature would be as honest as you.

SaratogaSpa said...

A case like this filled with often boring details of financial dealings, often comes down to who gives the better closing statement. My guess is there is at least one juror who missed Joe Bruno for better or worse and a not guilty verdict will be handed out.

El Angelo said...

Joe Bruno is a crook. Racing is better off to be rid of smarmy politicians like him.

Anonymous said...

Term limits is the only answer, for EVERY political office in the land, local and national.

They are ALL slimy crooked weasels (sorry to disparage the weasels, could not think of anything else).

The party does not matter, they are one and the same, and the sooner the people figure it out the better.

Anonymous said...

Bruno trial
Mon 23 Nov '09 - Capital Bureau's, Jim Odato

........... As for the lobbying case against Abbruzzese, the Commission on Public Integrity may soon kick into gear.

COPI spokesman Walter Ayres suggested that his agency is waiting for the Bruno case to end. "It is not unusual
that when two agencies are investigating matters with overlapping witnesses, that one would stand down to let
the other proceed," he said...


thank you Alan, for your recent, Bruno follow-up and associated tangents, as you would say.

But unfortunately or fortunately, there are only a couple of Aqueduct bidders now remaining,

not enveloped, within coming, associated litigation suits, or associated to the unraveling Empire case.

Let's hope, for your 'Queens', sake, a decision is made, without further delays.

Signed; Albany - is suffice.

Anonymous said...

Are Abbruzzese and Perlee registered as Lobbyists for SL Green?

Anonymous said...

Bruno's tangled horse ties
By JAMES M. ODATO, Capitol bureau
First published in print: Monday, November 23, 2009
Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno never let anyone know of his potential conflicts with bidders seeking the rights to the lucrative contract to run racing in New York in 2006.

Facts emerging from Bruno's federal corruption trial revealed Bruno had a secretive co-ownership of thoroughbred horses with Jared Abbruzzese who was a founding investor of one of the bidding teams, Empire Racing, and Jerry Bilinski, who was a principal of a competing bidder, Excelsior Racing. Plus, Bruno had been paid $632,000 from 1993 to 2005 for introducing union business to the brokerage firm of Timothy McGinn, a trustee with the New York Racing Association, the third bidder in the competition.
Bruno did not disclose his horse partnership with Abbruzzese and Bilinski on his annual financial disclosure forms for 2005 and 2006, his former ethics counsel said, because they could be considered a "joint venture." The partnership was dissolved in 2006. Bruno's appointees on the bid selection panel, John Nigro, Jack Knowlton and Ed Swyer, were never told about Bruno's relationships, according to interviews.

Excelsior Racing was chosen by the panel to replace NYRA as the franchise holder when the association's contract expired in December 2007. However, Gov. Eliot Spitzer called for a rebid and NYRA ended up getting a new long-term contract.

While Swyer said the record speaks for itself, Nigro and Knowlton said Bruno and the Senate majority's office stayed out of the process. Asked if he knew Bruno's business dealings with bidding team members Knowlton said: "I guess he spread himself out. The good thing ... is there was never any effort once the appointments were made to feed us any information or ask us what we were thinking and why; no contact. It was as much on the up and up as anything could be."

He added that the Bruno trial has shined "light on areas where light is never shed. What impact will it have on institutional politics in Albany? Those with the vested interests are the ones that have to change the rules of the game."

The horses that became co-owned by Bruno and his friends were purchased by Bruno from Earle Mack, himself a former member of NYRA. When Mack's seat on the association expired in 2006, Bruno appointed Wayne Barr, Abbruzzese's business partner. Barr owned half of Abbruzzese's share of the Bruno horses, Barr testified last week.

Abbruzzese was cut by Empire Racing before the winning bidder, Excelsior, was chosen. At the time, he was in the news the for being investigated by the state lobbying commission for allegedly giving Bruno rides on his airplane and being an unregistered lobbyist.

The horse entanglements don't end there. Excelsior's team included casino developer Richard Fields, who Bruno introduced to Abbruzzese after becoming a $20,000 per month consultant to Abbruzzese's company in 2004. The pay was partly so that Abbruzzese could access the senator's Rolodex.

As for the lobbying case against Abbruzzese, the Commission on Public Integrity may soon kick into gear. COPI spokesman Walter Ayres suggested that his agency is waiting for the Bruno case to end. "It is not unusual that when two agencies are investigating matters with overlapping witnesses, that one would stand down to let the other proceed," he said.

Read more:

Anonymous said...

closing arguments going on right now in the Bruno trial. Case could go to Jury by this afternoon. Who wants to give odds on the result?

Anonymous said...

I suspect the July will be out for a while but will come back with a not-guilty verdict.

Anonymous said...

How about a hung jury, so this whole process can get dragged along a little further.

Sure Bruno has managed to "lobby" at least one of the jurors.

ljk said...

I saw where the NYTIMES.COM channeled their inner Paul Post today with a an article that shed absolutely nothing new on the Aqueduct selection process.

It's amusing that the Times thinks we're awaiting a decision "on an operator for the aging track".

Anonymous said...

Today's New York Times:

Mr. Silver said the Legislature was now focused on the dealing with the budget and a $4 billion deficit.

“We have five months to collect that $200 million,” he said, adding that he hoped to resolve the issue once negotiations on the budget were concluded.

Does this mean the Aqueduct VLT decision will take another 5 months?

Anonymous said...

I just read the New York Times article.

It certainly looks like the SL Green PR machine was behind it.

Jeff Gural quoted. No quotes from any of the other bidders. Notice that SL Green is mentioned as a possible favorite of each of the decision makers.

Nothing really on Delaware North, Penn National nor MGM and Peebles. Aqueduct Entertainment Group mentioned as "one of the weaker of the six bidders" and the Smith/Flake relationship.

Balanced journalism?

The New York Times also failed to mention the illegal activities of the Seminoles in Florida referred at the end of Alan's article above.

And what about the Jared Abbruzzese and Jeffrey Tucker's involvement in SL Green referred to by other bloggers here?

Once again "balanced journalism"?

We expect better of the New York Times.

alan said...

>>Does this mean the Aqueduct VLT decision will take another 5 months?

Yikes, I hope not. But Mr. Silver certainly seems to be saying that the decision is not a high priority at this particular time, at least for him.

A couple of interesting points in that article - one being the point by the law professor who seems to be expecting a lawsuit no matter who wins. “Whoever is selected, I think you can argue that the decision was arbitrary and capricious.”

And Malcolm Smith speaks, and denies that he has an interest in "working in that business."

But in general, I agree that it's one of those space filler types for the Sunday edition. In fact, I don't see it anywhere in today's print edition, and didn't notice it yesterday either.

Anonymous said...

The NY Times article is dated November 24 so I suspect it is available online now and will be in tomorrow's print edition.