A federal judge on Friday upheld the indictment of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but criticized U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for a media blitz surrounding Silver’s arrest.
In a 16-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni dismissed Silver’s motion to toss the corruption charges levied against him, which had argued that Bharara’s public comments about Silver’s case influenced a grand jury into thinking he’s guilty.
Caproni ultimately didn’t accept Silver’s argument, but said Bharara — the high-profile prosecutor for the state’s southern district — ventured “close to the edge” of acceptable conduct.
“In this case, the U.S. Attorney, while castigating politicians in Albany for playing fast and loose with the ethical rules that govern their conduct, strayed so close to the edge of the rules governing his own conduct that Defendant Sheldon Silver has a non-frivolous argument that he fell over the edge to the Defendant’s prejudice,” Caproni wrote.
In his motion, Silver’s attorneys accused Bharara of trying to “convict in the media,” accusing the prosecutor of orchestrating an “unrelenting media frenzy” while showing a “a complete disregard for the rules governing a prosecutor’s conduct.” The motion cited dozens of articles in the media, with most featuring snappy quotes from Bharara about Albany’s three-men-in-a-room culture and string of corruption arrests.
Bharara’s office argued the prosecutor was careful to say the charges against Silver were accusations and would be tried in the court of law.
Ultimately, Caproni found Silver’s argument to be lacking, saying it fell short of warranting a dismissal.
“Nevertheless, the parties are cautioned that this case is to be tried in the courtroom and not in the press,” Caproni wrote.
Silver faces a three-count indictment that accuses him of participating in a $4 million kickback scheme. He was forced out as Assembly leader not long after his January arrest.
(Photo of Bharara by Mary Altaffer, AP)