Tuesday, January 12, 2016

US Attorney Preet Bharara Decides Not To Indict NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo For Judicial Corruption

US Attorney Preet Bharara
No one is happy with Mr. Bharara's decision not to indict Governor Cuomo for closing down the Moreland Commission. no one.

Betsy Combier
Editor, New York Court Corruption

Bharara ends probe of Cuomo’s Moreland Commission shutdown

After more than 17 months, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has ended his investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s abrupt shuttering of a Moreland Commission probe in Albany.
In a statement, Bharara said that while the closing of the commission was “premature,” “absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime.”
“We continue to have active investigations related to substantive inquiries that were being conducted by the Moreland Commission at the time of its closure,” Bharara said.
The announcement, coming on the heels of a high-profile visit to discuss corruption issues with Kentucky lawmakers and the recent convictions of two of the state’s top legislative leaders, came seemingly without warning from Bharara’s office. The news effectively blows away a cloud of suspicion hanging over the state Capitol since Bharara’s office announced it was investigating the shutdown of the Moreland Commission in July, 2014.

Investigation Into Closing of N.Y.’s Moreland Commission Finds ‘Insufficient Evidence’ of Crime

Gov. Andrew Cuomo disbanded the anticorruption panel in 2014, although it hadn’t completed its investigations

ALBANY, N.Y.—A 20-month investigation into the Cuomo administration’s handling of an anticorruption commission found “insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Monday.
The determination, announced in a statement by the federal prosecutor, brings an end to an episode that has dogged Gov. Andrew Cuomo for nearly two years.
Mr. Bharara said the calculation had been made “after a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing.” Among other issues, the U.S. attorney’s office had been exploring whether actions taken by the governor’s office constituted witness tampering or obstruction of justice.
Elkan Abramowitz, an attorney for Mr. Cuomo and the executive chamber, said Monday “we were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the U.S. attorney clarifying this for the public record.”
Mr. Bharara’s statement was in part a response to speculation by lawmakers and the media about possible imminent charges against Mr. Cuomo in the Moreland matter, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, however, has rarely issued such statements.
In November 2008, then-U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said the office wouldn’t seek criminal charges against former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who left office earlier that year amid a prostitution scandal.
Prosecutors’ decision to publicly absolve Mr. Cuomo concludes a chapter of his political career that threatened to overshadow much of his legislative work.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, abruptly disbanded the anticorruption panel in April 2014, after nine months, in a deal with legislative leaders that resulted in additional ethics rules in Albany.
At the time, the commission hadn’t completed its investigations—its findings turned up evidence of criminal wrongdoing by at least 10 to 12 lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal reported—and Mr. Cuomo and his top aides had been accused of interfering in its efforts.
In the days following its disbanding, Mr. Bharara criticized the commission’s demise, saying it appeared as though “investigations potentially significant to the public interest have been bargained away.” He dispatched trucks to pick up investigative files from the commission so federal prosecutors could determine whether and how to pursue any matters that had been under examination.
His office quickly expanded its sights, issuing subpoenas to the state’s ethics-enforcement agency, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, as well as to the Moreland’s former chief counsel, among others. It also instructed state legislators to preserve all records and documents related to the panel.
Over that summer, several of Mr. Cuomo’s highest ranking aides at the time, including then-Secretary to the Governor Larry Schwartz and Counsel Mylan Denerstein, spoke to federal investigators. Months later, investigators also interviewed Mr. Cuomo’s longtime political enforcer Joseph Percoco, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Cuomo promised his office would cooperate with the investigation and defended the commission’s work, saying his aides offered advice to investigators but the panel operated with “total independence.”
Still, the matter became a significant political crisis for Mr. Cuomo, putting him on the defensive as he sought re-election and undermining claims he had made, even before he took office, that he would clean up Albany.
Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney’s other public-corruption prosecutions have prompted the ouster and conviction of two of the most powerful men in state politics: one-time legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.
Those convictions have spurred Mr. Cuomo to declare that he will, once again, propose ethics overhauls in his State of the State address on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mr. Bharara added that his office is continuing to pursue investigations of Albany lawmakers that it launched as a result of the files it picked up when it took over the Moreland Commission’s work.
And despite a sense of relief regarding the end of the Moreland matter, Mr. Cuomo’s administration can’t close the book on Mr. Bharara’s probes quite yet: Federal prosecutors are investigating the bidding process in an upstate revitalization projectchampioned by the governor.

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