- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The second federal corruption trial of former New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno began Monday in Albany, with prosecutors trying once more to convict a man once considered one of the state’s most powerful politicians.

Opening statements from the prosecution and Bruno’s defense attorney were made Monday afternoon after the selection of jurors for what is expected to be a two-week trial.

Bruno is charged with two counts of mail fraud for allegedly receiving more than $400,000 from a businessman in exchange for help securing grants and influence. The 85-year-old Bruno, a Republican and Rensselaer County resident, has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that the payments were for legitimate consulting work.

Bruno led the Senate for more than a decade before he stepped down in 2008, six months before he was initially indicted.

Bruno is accused of receiving $360,000 in 2004 and 2005 from Jared Abbruzzese, a businessman. In addition, prosecutors say Bruno received $40,000 - and the forgiveness of a $40,000 loan - in exchange for selling his interest in a “worthless” horse that was later given away for free.

Prosecutors say that in return Bruno did favors for Abbruzzese, including work to secure more than $2 million in state grants for a technology company connected to Abbruzzese. In her opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe said there is no written evidence that Bruno did any work for Abbruzzese as a consultant.

“This case is about a quid pro quo bribery scheme,” Coombe told the 12-person jury.

Bruno’s defense counters that the consulting job was genuine and that there’s no evidence that Bruno’s actions as a lawmaker improperly benefited Abbruzzese.

“Joe Bruno is an open book,” said attorney William Dryer.

Abbruzzese is expected to testify. The trial resumes Tuesday. U.S. Judge Gary Sharpe said he expects it to last two weeks.

Bruno was first tried in 2009; he was acquitted of five fraud counts and convicted of two others. He was sentenced to two years in prison but remained free pending his appeal. The convictions were overturned in 2011, and prosecutors refiled the two charges.

Bruno had cancer surgery last year and last week his attorneys successfully petitioned Sharpe to shorten the trial’s daily schedule out of concern for his health. During a break in Monday’s session, Bruno said he’s tired of the lengthy prosecution.

“It’s just time to get it behind us,” Bruno said.