Epstein, "The Unfortunate Saga of Joseph Bruno"

The Unfortunate Saga of Joseph Bruno
Richard A. Epstein
August 7, 2013

On April 2, I wrote a column for Defining Ideas at the Hoover Institution entitled "The Persecution of Joseph Bruno", in which I attacked the decision of Richard S. Hartunian, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York, to bring additional charges against Joseph Bruno, the now-former New York Senate Majority leader. In that earlier column, as now, I did not make any judgment about the guilt or innocence of Mr. Bruno, but only objected to what I think is the shabby treatment that he has received under the law.

In that earlier case, Mr. Bruno, who had provided consulting services during his senate tenure without making the required disclosures, was charged with engaging in ”a scheme or artifice to deprive another of the intangible right of honest services,” a charge that did not require proof that Mr. Bruno had engaged in transactions that involved bribes or kickbacks (thus making the prosecution a much lighter lift). That theory of “honest services” was rejected by the United States Supreme Court in Skilling v. United States, which meant that the prosecution had to be thrown out.

At that point, Mr. Hartunian, who had decided not to pursue a quid pro quo theory in the earlier case, decided to bring the charge after all, knowing that it was ha