"There are two ways to interpret Bryant's official actions," Judge Freda Wolfson, who presided over the nonjury trial that ended in February, wrote in her decision.
Either "Bryant voted in such a manner with intent to fulfill his end of the corrupt arrangement," Wolfson wrote, ". . . or - a considerably more plausible conclusion - Bryant's actions were typical of his legislative agenda. This innocent and indeed, more likely, explanation alone creates reasonable doubt."
Henry Klingeman, Bryant's court-appointed attorney, said he was "thrilled" with the verdict, which he said would soon allow Bryant to return to his family.
Bryant, 64, is serving a four-year prison sentence for his 2008 conviction in another corruption case. He is due to be released in February, according to prison records.
Klingeman said he contacted Bryant's family after learning that the judge had issued her opinion late Friday afternoon. Bryant would probably learn of the verdict when he talked with family members by telephone Saturday, the lawyer said.
In her 43-page opinion, Wolfson largely adopted the arguments made by Klingeman during the trial.
The facts in the case were largely not in dispute, the Newark, N.J.-based lawyer said. It was an interpretation of those facts that would determine guilt or innocence, he argued.
In light of that, he and Bryant decided that a nonjury trial would be the smartest way to present their case, Klingeman said Friday.
The seeming presumption by the public that New Jersey politics is corrupt also weighed against a jury trial.
"In this day and age, and in this political climate, politicians are among our least respected professionals," he said.
Bryant, a veteran state senator, was accused of using his influence in the Legislature to benefit development projects proposed by Cherokee in what the government said was a "quid pro quo" arranged by Eric Wisler, a North Jersey lawyer retained by the developer.
The government alleged that Wisler and Bryant agreed to a scheme in which Bryant's law firm would receive an $8,000-a-month retainer but would do no work.
In all, the government charged, Bryant and his firm received $192,000 over two years.
Wisler was indicted along with Bryant but died of cancer last year.
Among other things, authorities alleged that Bryant voted for legislation that benefited the Cherokee projects and against those that would undermine them.
But Wolfson noted in her opinion that "it would be speculative to find corrupt intent on Bryant's part merely based on his voting pattern."
In fact, she pointed out, several pieces of legislation cited by the government had unanimous support in the Senate. Bryant's history as a legislator had been built around support for development projects in Camden, Wolfson wrote.
Prosecutors contended that Bryant continued to support the Cramer Hill development, for example, even after residents - his constituents - mounted a strong protest, arguing that thousands of longtime residents would be displaced through eminent domain.
The prosecution's arguments, Wolfson said in her opinion, were not supported by factual evidence of corruption.
"Little more than conjecture supports the hypothesis of guilt," the judge wrote.
While evidence might support charges of corruption tied to Wisler's actions and motives, she said, there was more than enough reasonable doubt to acquit Bryant.
Wolfson is the same judge who sentenced Bryant to four years in prison in 2008.
In that case, Bryant was convicted of a corruption scheme tied to a low-show job at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
A jury found that he steered legislation that generated million of dollars in state funding to the school in exchange for the job, which required little work but allowed him to pad his state pension.
Contact George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or email@example.com.