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Abbruzzesse's legal counsel testifies in Bruno retrial

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Albany/HV: Abbruzzesse's legal counsel testifies in Bruno retrial
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- Joe Bruno's vindication is up to the jury, who must decide whether the former Senate Majority Leader's monthly $20,000 consulting fees, were honest income, or bribes.

Part of the decision is deciphering Wayne Barr's testimony, a man who had close ties to Bruno, but even closer ties to his alleged briber, Jared Abbruzese.

"Mr. Barr was so combative that the judge allowed the prosecutor to basically cross examine him and you could see the tension and the hostility that he had toward the prosecutor and you do wonder what impact does that have especially when on cross examination he was so cooperative, his tone changed. He was a completely different person," said legal analyst Paul DerOhannesian.

Barr was tied up in the same interests as Bruno and Abbruzese: horse racing and Bruno's consulting.

As legal counsel to Abbruzese, Barr testified that he drew up the somewhat loose agreements for Bruno to consult for Abbruzese. But nowhere in those agreements was Bruno required to write down what work his consulting actually included; and Barr says he never saw nor heard about Bruno recording his work.

"There can be no documentation shown for any work that Senator Bruno was doing for the $20,000 a month. And what they tried to do in response is say look, he's an independent contractor who can do what he wants," said DerOhannesian.

Elsewhere, in horse racing, Wayne Barr got himself appointed to the New York Racing Authority Board in 2004, with a nudge from Joe Bruno. The prosecution claims Bruno was setting up his friend Abbruzese to bid for and take over the Racing Authority franchise, by planting Barr and others on the board to ensure about NYRA's failure.

But Abbruzese never won that bid, despite Bruno's hand in it. And Wayne Barr later resigned from NYRA, the defense pointed out.

"But if you notice what happened later, it turns out that some of these actions the prosecution suggests may have been effected by the investigation and that may have tainted how people behaved and reacted," said DerOhannesian.

There's also the Troy-based technology company called Evident, which received a $1.5 million grant, on Joe Bruno's authority. There again were Abbruzese and Barr, operating the company.

Whether that grant was corrupt is up to the jury, but the defense claims it was Bruno's job to decide where grants went, which is true. But the prosecution is claiming Bruno used the grant as a sort of random, to get what he wanted from Abbruzese.


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