A month after gaining the support of a contingent of lawyers, embattled former state Sen. Joseph Bruno is taking his case to the court of public opinion through a new Web site: www.justiceforjoebruno.com.
The campaign-style Web site features a glowing biography of Bruno, a news feed featuring stories about the debatable legal precedence behind federal charges against him and a blog where supporters can voice their support (seven were posted as of press time).
The Web site lists Gary Lewi, of the New York City-based public relations firm Rubenstein Associates, as a media contact. When contacted, however, Lewi said he no longer represented Bruno and directed queries to CMA Consulting Services of Latham, of which Bruno is CEO.
Kris Thompson, a former Bruno staffer now with CMA, confirmed that the Web site was formed on the behalf of the former senator as part of the effort to fight his criminal charges.
After the indictment, people came to Sen. Bruno offering their support and also their advice, said Thompson. "They wanted to move forward and create this Web site that would keep people informed."
Bruno was indicted in January on eight counts accusing the longtime statesman of using his influence to steer business towards certain financial entities, who he then collected fees from. Federal prosecutors say he took in $3.2 million between 1993 and 2006 in various "consulting fees" in this manner, sometimes working through his Capital Business Consultants group, which prosecutors say was a sham entity itself.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in November.
The charges against the former Senate majority leader stem from elements of a mail fraud statute that point to "a scheme to artifice and defraud" citizens of honest service.
Such charges are often used by federal prosecutors to nail down perpetrators of white collar crime, though the legal value of the law is somewhat dubious.
On the site, Bruno attacks the charges:
"There is a frightening message to all elected officials who are not wealthy and have to work to make a living. You too can become target practice with a statute that can infer, insinuate, and imply because they can't find the facts to make a criminal case," writes Bruno.
Thompson said the site has been very successful, with thousands of hits recorded.
"People want to know what's happening with this the case, and this is the best way to really keep people posted," he said.""