Teen seeks damages from Bruno in landlord pornography case

A New London teen who says Waterford landlord Richard Bruno raped her repeatedly on camera has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court seeking at least $150,000 in damages.

Bruno, 47, remains incarcerated at the Bridgeport Correctional Center on state and federal charges that he produced child pornography and attempted to entice a 13-year-old girl to have sex.

The 18-year-old, referred to as "Jane Doe" in legal filings, may be the first person in Connecticut to bring a lawsuit under "Masha's Law," which is a section of the Adam Walsh Act of 2006 that allows victims of child pornography and other sexual crimes to sue for damages, according to her attorney, Jonathan J. Einhorn. The law is named for a Russian girl whose wealthy adoptive American father sexually assaulted her over a five-year period and distributed the images widely.

The New London teen was 17 when, authorities say, Bruno paid her cash and small amounts of marijuana to have sex on camera at a building he owned at 19 Mountain Ave. The civil complaint asserts she suffered "deprivation of privacy, extreme emotional distress and psychological harm" from the incidents.

"For the rest of her life, plaintiff must live with the knowledge that defendant has watched her being raped and exploited for his sexual gratification," the complaint says. She is seeking reimbursement for therapy, diminished earning capacity and lost wages and costs associated with keeping her identity private, according to the lawsuit.

Einhorn said that even though the Adam Walsh Act enables victims to sue their abusers for at least $150,000, most people convicted of sex crimes have few or no assets. That is not the case with Bruno, who with his estranged wife, Kem Bruno of Waterford, owns 18 rental properties with an estimated value of more than $2.4 million and other assets.

"The complexity is that she (Mrs. Bruno) is in the middle of a divorce with him and the assets are being pulled in different directions," Einhorn said during a brief phone interview earlier this week.

In court filings, Kem Bruno, manager of the Curtin Transportation Group, asserts that Bruno brought few assets into their marriage 19 years ago and that she, "the daughter of a successful businessman who had made a modest fortune in the livery trade," used her money to purchase the rental properties, the couple's Waterford home and other assets.

In a March 27 legal motion seeking to stop a judge from attaching assets for the Jane Doe case, Kem Bruno asserts that she and their teenage children are innocent victims.

"Prior to Richard Bruno's arrest, she and they knew nothing of his extramarital infidelities," the motion says. "They did not know that he was paying young women to perform acts of prostitution, nor did they know he was recording these acts of prostitution in violation of federal law."

In the divorce case, which is headed for trial in July in Superior Court in Norwich, Mrs. Bruno is seeking full custody of the children, possession of the family home and all other jointly held assets except for Bruno's plumbing company, of which she owns just 1 percent. She is asking the judge to order Bruno to pay child support, contribute to the children's higher education costs and to enforce a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in October 1997.

Richard Bruno owns 99 percent of Bruno Plumbing Inc., according to the filing, but that company owns no real estate, only a truck and a Mercedes SUV that Mrs. Bruno believes was seized by the government.

Kem Bruno could not be reached for comment, nor could her attorney, Terry S. Donovan.

Bruno came to the attention of New London police when they learned he allegedly was attempting to extort sexual acts in lieu of cash from tenants. The officers suspected he was soliciting sex from children and in May 2016 said they worked with the state police Computer Crimes Unit to determine he recently had solicited what he believed to be a 13-year-old online.

Police arrested Bruno when he showed up to meet the girl, whom he was planning to pay for sex, and they executed a search-and-seizure warrant at his 33 Shore Road home in Waterford.

In December 2016, a federal grand jury indicted him on federal charges, including producing child pornography. Authorities said he was using the building at 19 Mountain Ave. to produce videos of himself engaged in bondage and sadomasochistic acts with young women. Police had searched the Mountain Avenue property and seized costumes, leather whips, sex toys, metal chains, used and unused condoms, Viagra, a Levitra prescription in Bruno's name and assorted sex tapes and DVDs.

Court documents also indicate that, during a search og Bruno's home at 33 Shore Road in Waterford, police discovered a secret room, containing a video-viewing device loaded with pornography, off the master bedroom of the 4,100-square-foot house. The police said they discovered, on computers seized at the Bruno home, "apparently homemade pornographic videos that included Bruno as an actor and suspected juvenile girls as the other sex partner in bondage and sadomasochistic sex acts."

According to his attorneys with the Suisman Shapiro law firm, Bruno was scheduled to be transferred Thursday from the state jail to a federal holding facility, the Donald W. Wyatt Detention facility in Central Falls, R.I., so that his federal charges can be resolved.

k.florin@theday.com 

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