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Corruption in the Empire State

A jury convicted New York State Senate leader Joseph Bruno of corruption yesterday, sending shock-waves through the Empire State's political world. Bruno was convicted of two counts and could spend upwards of 40 years in prison.

Mr. Bruno, 80 years old, faced eight fraud charges in a corruption trial that exposed Albany's practice of influence-peddling by lawmakers. The jury convicted Mr. Bruno of two counts of mail fraud; acquitted him of two counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud; and couldn't reach a decision on another mail fraud count.

Prosecutors accused Mr. Bruno of denying New Yorkers his honest services while making $3.2 million by using his state influence. He consulted for three businessmen and solicited union pension investments from labor unions on behalf of two companies.

We always like to keep tabs on political corruption, but this case is interesting for other reasons. The law used to convict Bruno is the same one used by federal prosecutors against several local politicians.

Former City Councilman Rick Mariano, ex-city treasurer Corey Kemp and onetime chief of staff to Councilman Jack Kelly, Christopher Wright, have all been convicted of what's known as "honest-services fraud." So, too, has former New Jersey state Sen. Wayne Bryant.

The law makes it illegal for public officials or private individuals to be disloyal to or dishonest with their constituents or employers.

Critics of the honest services law say it's too vague and can be abused by prosecutors. Others have mounted three separate constitutional challenges against the law, saying that it's an unfair infringement on states' rights. Two of those cases will be argued in front of the Supreme Court in the next few days.

We'll keep you updated on all the latest developments. Until then, what do you think? Is the honest services law fair?

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