Updated: 05/19/2014 6:46 PM
Created: 05/19/2014 12:56 PM WNYT.com
By: Kumi Tucker
ALBANY – Former Senator Joe Bruno says the government took away a big part of his last six years. Friday, he was acquitted of fraud charges.
Bruno will now be applying to the state to get back what he estimates is $4 million in legal expenses. Now that he's been found not guilty, state taxpayers could be footing his substantial legal bill under the state Public Officers' Law.
Bruno sat down with Kumi Tucker Monday and thanked the jury and all his supporters.
He says it feels good to wake up with federal fraud charges no longer hanging over his head.
A jury acquitted the 85-year-old Friday. He says the "not guilty" verdict is just now sinking in. As he heard the verdict, "I broke down. I just broke down. I didn't even hear them poll the jury. I didn't know that they did. You know what my first reaction was? Prayers do get answered. That's exactly what I thought," he said.
As he sat down for an interview, Bruno said he is proud of his many years of public service.
"You don't know if I ever, if I got on the stand and talked about consulting contracts that people offered me when I became leader, that I said no because I thought it could be conflicting," said Bruno.
After two trials and appeals, he says his legal expenses are in the $4 million range. He plans to apply to the New York State for reimbursement.
Attorney Paul DerOhannesian explains the law: "The New York State Public Officers' Law specifically permits public employees, state employees, who have been acquitted or who have had their charges dismissed to make an application to get their legal fees covered. The law says the issues are: was this issue related to their scope of employment, is that why they were charged. The second issue will be what is 'reasonable' attorney fees."
Bruno says he intends to give some of the reimbursed money to charity.
"Some of it was my campaign money that was intended to do public good," he said. "That money ought to be back to do public good. And that's what it will do."
Bruno says the trials took a toll on him and his family.
"I can get my legal fees back, I'm innocent, but those six and a half years since they first indicted me, I can't get those back. My whole life, they really, really changed in a very negative way my whole life."
The State Public Officers' Law can be for an employee's expenses as a criminal defendant in state or federal court. The application goes to the New York State Attorney General.
Now the former Senate Majority Leader is looking ahead to the future.
"I'm not going to just dry up and blow away because that's not who I am. But I've got fresh life, and this may sound corny, but last Friday, truly, when that jury came through with this verdict, 'Not guilty, not guilty,' that was really the first day of the rest of my life."