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Thursday, August 08, 2013

Back to Court for Bruno

Joe Bruno's appeal to quash his re-trial on corruption charges was denied by a U.S. Circuit Court of fact, by the same court which overturned his original convictions.  Bruno will now be tried on honest services charges specifically related to money he received from the one-time racing franchise-hopeful Empire Racing investor Jared Abbruzzese, including $80,000 paid to Bruno for a worthless racehorse.

This is my post from December 2009 after Bruno was found guilty on two of the eight charges against him.  The convictions were overturned after the Supreme Court, in their always infinite wisdom, ruled that the honest services fraud statute has to relate to proven bribes and kickbacks, and not to mere conflicts of interest.  Bruno's lawyers argued that a re-trial would constitute double jeopardy because [the government] abandoned that theory at his first trial.  Seems like a specious argument because the government, at the time, did not have to prove a quid pro quo under the now-overturned portion of the law.  And indeed, the Court denied Bruno's motion unanimously.

Here, however, there was no "abandonment" to which Saylor could apply.  By Bruno's own admission, the original Indictment never charged him under a quid pro quo theory that could later have been abandoned.
So, the 84-year old former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate will stand trial again, and the government merely has to connect a bribe with a conflict of interest on which Bruno was already convicted. Apparently, they will focus on Bruno's relationship with Abbruzzese, $440,000 in payments supposedly for "consulting," and the above-mentioned money for the horse.  (While Bruno was convicted on the count involving the consulting payments, he was acquitted on the one involving the horse money.   Now....I'm not a lawyer, but doesn't that indeed constitute double jeopardy should he be charged with that again?)  No doubt the government will present evidence similar to that from the first trial that indicated that Bruno didn't actually do anything in return for the consulting fees.

Now here's what I find interesting, especially in the light of subsequent events:  The original focus of the prosecution with respect to the counts involving Abbruzzese was to show a connection between the payments and a $500,000 grant that Bruno secured for Evident Technologies, a non-profit in which Abbruzzese had a stake.  However, as I noted in the abovelinkedto Dec, 2009 post, the jury seemed interested in testimony regarding Abbruzzese's involvement with Friends of New York Racing, the precursor to Empire Racing, and I speculated that the conviction was based on suspicions that Abbruzzese was seeking to influence Bruno to favor Empire in the fight for the franchise that NYRA ultimately retained, rather than the award to Evident.

And now, I've been reading in the press that that is what will be the focus of the new case.  Here, from the Times Union:  
Bruno, 84, is accused of accepting kickbacks in exchange for using his Senate position to help a Loudonville businessman, Jared Abbruzzese, who was part of a group vying to control New York’s three thoroughbred race tracks. 

However, as I wrote in Dec, 2009:
That would be ironic, because, as I recall, Bruno remained rather aloof during the Ad Hoc Committee process and even afterwards; and I don't ever recall him expressing any favoritism towards any particular group, Empire included. I thought at the time that maybe he was chastened by the persistent press (and blog) reports of the connection between the two men (as you would think Malcolm Smith would be wary of endorsing AEG).
Well, as we know, neither Malcolm Smith nor John Sampson seemed to care about any appearances of connections in their attempt to steer the racino bidding towards AEG, which, as opposed to Bruno's low profile during the franchise bidding, was so brazen, so obvious, and so thoroughly well documented.  Yet, neither of those gentlemen have yet to be indicted. (For that, anyway.)  So, as ironic as I found the notion of the feds sending Bruno up the river over Empire back in Dec, 2009, I would find it many times more so now.

 - Here's an article from the Albany Times Union - ominously titled 'Race for Survival at Saratoga' - about concern by some in Saratoga regarding the negative effect that casino gambling may have on horse racing should the referendum be approved, and a casino be awarded to the local harness track (a mortal lock should the measure pass, in my opinion).
The November vote presents a dilemma for local elected officials. They say they want a full-fledged casino, considering the alternative of not getting one. But they, too, are worried about table games coming at the cost of the racetrack, which generates about $200 million annually for the local economy, according to a 2010 Saratoga County study. Racing and breeding contribute more than $2 billion a year to the state's economy, according to NYRA.

In an interview, city Supervisor Matthew Veitch said dice and poker would compete against horse racing for the public's gambling dollar.
Yeah?  You think?  Seems rather obvious, no?  Yet we have yet to see or hear any groundswell of opposition to the referendum from the racing industry. That of course is hardly surprising; most of the tracks are owned by the racino operators, so we're not going to hear Jeff Gural or Yonkers Raceway oppose the referendum as long as they think they can eventually get a casino.  There's the New York Horse Racing and Agriculture Industry Alliance which was formed last year, and which includes the horseman's groups for both breeds.  But we haven't heard anything from them lately (and who knows if they will have the financial resources to be much of a factor).

Of course, NYRA, by far the most prominent of the racetracks, is separate from Genting.  But it's controlled by a Board of Directors that's controlled by a governor who dearly wants the referendum to pass.  So we won't hear a peep from there.  Besides, the NYRA CEO, its supposed public face, is a novice in the industry, and rambled rather incoherently about the casino bill in response to an unrelated question in his interview with David Grening in the Form last month.

We haven't really heard anything substantive from Chris Kay since that interview published just before opening day at Saratoga.  I haven't been up there, so maybe I'm wrong; but based on press reports (or lack thereof), he sure doesn't seem to be ubiquitous.  They've trotted him out for ceremonial trifles like the unveiling of a new viewing stand at the training track.  And for Johnny V setting a record for most wins at the track.  And we'll see him in the winner's circle on Thursday.

But I dunno; one might think you'd see him getting a little down and dirty, trying to get a sense of some of the intricacies and nuances of the game.  I saw Liz O'Connell tweet the other day:
And yeah, why not?  He's a nature guy, right?  Better yet, I'd like to see him pick up a Daily Racing Form (or maybe click on TimeformUS?), huddle in some corner of the grandstand (in some area where he can actually hear the PA and learn from Serling and Eric Donovan and Maggie), dope out some races, and.....

Oh.  Yeah.  HE'S NOT ALLOWED TO BET.  Surely one of the dumbest-ass dumbass rules that one ever could see.  The new CEO who has promised to improve the customer experience is not allowed to experience the experience he wants to improve for his customers.  That's just brilliant.


jk said...

Horseman are in favor of slots as it is the source of inflated purses.

The current business model shapes up as:

Slot players get brand new facilities and low takeout

Horseman get inflated purses from slots

Politicians get bribes from casinos

Horse bettors get high takeout and aging facilities

Cuomo appoints a board to figure out why business is declining at racing facilities

jk said...

Our fearless leader gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar....

Gov. Cuomo got $100,000 from developer, then signed law giving it big tax breaks

Alan Mann said...

Maybe he'll appoint a Moreland Commission to investigate.

August Song said...

Cuomo as both, the New York State Attorney General when the AEG casino scam came down, and the New York State Governor who appointed Chief Investigator Joseph Fitch to lead the investigation into the scam. After Fitch issued his report what did Cuomo do? "Nothing" is the answer, must be the honor among thieves mentality, extended by the corrupt for the corrupt.