Governor Andrew Cuomo could face legal action from the anti-corruption panel he formed and then disbanded, as a published report says U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a letter to the Cuomo administration warning of an investigation into obstruction of justice and witness tampering. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a letter to the Moreland Commission informing the commissioners that if any of them were prompted to make public statements supporting Governor Andrew Cuomo, prosecutors would have to consider possible obstruction of justice and witness tampering charges against the Cuomo administration.
"The public has a very strong notion of this already," said Dan Feldman of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "We all as Americans have learned over the years that the cover-up is always worse than the crime."
Last week, the New York Times wrote a blistering front-page story that detailed instances where the Cuomo administration interfered with the work of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
On Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo broke his silence on the story. He repeatedly pointed to a statement issued that same morning by William Fitzpatrick, one of the three Moreland co-chairs. The statement backed up the governor's claim that the commission acted independently.
"Chairman Fitzpatrick says 100 percent. And by the way, if anyone tried to jeopardize my independence, I would have quit," Cuomo said. "By the way, if you know Fitzpatrick, you know that he would have quit."
NY1 has learned that William Fitzpatrick's wife, Diane Fitzpatrick, is a court of claims judge in Syracuse. She is up for re-appointment for another nine-year term next year by Cuomo, assuming he is re-elected. That raises what some say is at least an appearance of a conflict.
Other commissioners also came forward this week with public statements supporting the governor. Then, Bharara sent his letter Wednesday suggesting some of those public statements may have been coerced.
Cuomo issued a statement Thursday explaining why he spoke out.
"The New York Times published a story last week that generated a wave of news reports across the state, some with numerous inaccuracies, and we wanted to correct them," the statement read, in part.
What began as a bit of a headache for the Cuomo administration appears to have gotten worse. The governor's statement went on to say that they will have no additional comment on this matter at all.