Monday, November 2, 2009

Jury selected, attorneys give opening statements on first day of Bruno trial

Earlier this hour, seven women and five men were chosen as members of the jury that will determine the fate of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. Bruno is on trial facing charges that he abused his office and defrauded the government in failing to disclose his financial relationship with businesses and individuals. He has pleaded not guilty.

Five members of the potential jury pool were excused for various reasons. Prospective jurors can ask to be excused if they feel they wouldn't be able to judge the facts of the case objectively. Attorneys for either side can also request a juror be excused, sometimes without having to give a reason.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe said he will not sequester the jury, meaning they can return home after each day. He reminded the potential jury pool to not discuss the trial with anyone or follow news coverage.

The trial is being held U.S. District Court in Albany, and may last into December.

UPDATE: 5:28 P.M.
Attorneys for the prosecution and defense delivered their opening statements this afternoon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Coombe spoke on behalf of the prosecution.

She said the government plans to prove that Sen. Bruno violated federal statute that entitled the public to the "honest services" of its elected officials. They plan to show that Bruno failed to disclose, and intended to keep secret, his financial relationships with investment firms and individuals. The government alleges Bruno was granted over $3 million over more than 10 years by various groups and individuals. He did this "for his own personal enrichment," Coombe said today. He "concealed and disguised" his actions.

Abbe David Lowell, a top white-collar lawyer from Washington, D.C., delivered the defense's opening statement. He does not deny many of the facts of the case, but denies what the prosecution says the facts amount to. He characterized Sen. Bruno as a "hard-working, honest public servant." He asserted Bruno never pressured anyone to take a certain action. He says witnesses will testify that the former Senate majority leader didn't violate financial disclosure forms nor hide any of his financial relationships. Lowell countered the prosecution's claim that Bruno's actions rise to the level of a "scheme" to defraud the public.

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