A former union president says his late boss expected "favors'' from then New York Senate leader Joseph Bruno in return for investing union pension funds with the company that employed Bruno on the side.
Mark Congi, who was also Laborers Local 91's assistant business agent until his 2002 indictment for racketeering, testified Monday at Bruno's federal corruption trial.
He said that business agent Michael Quarcini felt the more money they placed with Wright Investors Service, the more help they'd get from Bruno. Congi, now in prison, says union interests included a proposed Indian casino and state construction contracts with union labor in the Niagara Falls area.
Union trustees initially placed $10 million with Wright, which paid Bruno commissions.
Defense attorney Abbe David Lowell, in opening statements Monday at Bruno's federal corruption trial, told the 12 jurors and four alternates that the government touches virtually every facet of business and it would be "impossible" to avoid those circumstances.
"He was hired to make connections and open doors. This was perfectly allowed. That's all Mr. Bruno did," Lowell said. Maybe the law should be changed, but that's legal in New York, he said.
Lowell said his client, in charge of the state Senate's Republican majority for 14 years until his retirement in 2008, didn't pressure anyone to make the deals that paid him commissions.
Bruno, 80, is charged with eight counts of wire and mail fraud, accused of using his state influence to enrich himself and thereby depriving New Yorkers of honest services.
Bruno told reporters that he was looking forward to getting on with the trial and being acquitted.
"I feel I've done nothing wrong," he said.
Bruno seized the Senate's majority leadership post in a 1994 overthrow. He retired in July 2008 after more than 30 years representing an Albany-area district.
U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe told jurors that to convict Bruno, they would have to find that he devised a scheme to defraud, deprived others of his honest services, made material misrepresentations and used interstate mails and wires in the scheme.
Bruno's annual state pension is $93,548, according to the state comptroller's office. It's guaranteed by the state constitution and he'll keep it if convicted.