U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is defending himself from criticism that he's politicizing his prosecution of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Josh Robin filed the following report.
As Sheldon Silver was arraigned last month, his lawyer, Steven Molo, declared the legal strategy.
"Mr. Silver has been deprived of his right of presumption of innocence," Molo said.
Deprived by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who not only is bringing the case, but publicly blasting Albany as a "cauldron of corruption." Silver says all that exposure is prejudicing grand jurors and would-be trial jurors.
On Friday, Bharara made it clear that he sees no reason to hold his tongue.
"It is a fundamental part of the job to talk about these issues so as a community and a country, we are not just focused narrowly on prosecuting crime, but also preventing and deterring it," Bharara said.
That said, Bharara isn't talking specifically about the Silver case, and not in anything more than generalities about much else. At least on Friday, you heard no specific prescription to clean up Albany, like outlawing outside jobs or limiting campaign contributions.
"I don't have particular views on any of these particular questions, but it seems these are the kinds of questions worth asking," Bharara said.
And they are being asked.
Ethics is also being debated once again in Albany, with Governor Andrew Cuomo pushing major changes to state law. He even is vowing to hold up on-time passage of the state budget if it doesn't happen.
Bharara wasn't willing to play political pundit.
"I don't have any prediction about particular reforms," he said. "We'll see what happens."
But the woman who did surprisingly well again Cuomo in last year's Democratic primary, Zephyr Teachout, offered a jab at her old rival.
"I have reason to not trust Andrew Cuomo on ethics reform," Teachout said. "The problem with the governor's current proposal is, it really doesn't affect the executive branch."
Bharara preaches optimism. When one questioner Friday professed to be beaten down by all the corruption, the prosecutor quoted Archimedes and offered two suggestions. One? Stay civically involved. Two?
"If you want to wear a wire, come and talk to us," he said.