ALBANY -- The indictment-in-waiting -- which Albany has been anticipating for more than a year -- finally dropped Friday: prosecutors charged former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno with public corruption.
Ever since Bruno publicly revealed he was the target of an FBI probe in December 2006, the Capitol has been waiting for the shoe to drop against someone who had become the most powerful Republican in the state.
Now retired, and raking in money as a lobbyist and executive with a politically connected firm, Bruno was his classic self Friday. He was combative, fiery and ready to toss one zinger after another at anyone -- in this case federal prosecutors -- who would say anything against him.
But while he faces the legal fight of his life, and one that could land him in jail for 20 years if convicted, Bruno still has his Eliot Spitzer ghosts. For more than a year, Bruno and the former governor went head-to-head. Spitzer saw Bruno as his chief obstacle to getting his way, a feeling that drove, his critics said, his administration to begin using the state police to monitor Bruno's state travels.
So there was Bruno Friday, less than half an hour after appearing in court to face an eight-count indictment for his outside business dealings that made him a rich man, barking at Spitzer as much as at anyone. Was it just lingering anger or part of a legal strategy to suggest that Bruno has been a political target -- first by Spitzer and then by federal prosecutors?
Either way, it was there. "Whether by former Gov. Spitzer or a politicized U.S. Attorney's office and an overzealous FBI, I have, with their efforts, had every relationship of my life poked, probed and looked over. The former governor's aides, even when they illegally used the state police, could find nothing."
He even brought up Spitzer not getting charged for patronizing a prostitution ring, a prosecutorial lapse by Bruno's account.
"One thing I know in my heart, I did nothing wrong," Bruno said. This time, though, there would be no farewell bus tour for reporters, the likes of which he gave when he retired last July to show off all the hundreds of millions of dollars in state money he spread around the Albany area in and around his district.
-- Tom Precious
taggedCrime & Courts