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Bharara: No evidence of crime in interference of Moreland Commission

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara leaves federal court in Manhattan on Dec. 12, 2015. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Monday his investigation indicated no federal crimes were committed involving interference with the operation of a Moreland Commission on ethics issues in Albany.

Although the statement from Bharara did not mention Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo by name, it suggested that the governor and others in his administration will face no criminal liability over the events that ended with the demise of the commission in 2014.

“After a thorough investigation of interference with the operation of the Moreland Commission and its premature closing, this Office has concluded that, absent any additional proof that may develop, there is insufficient evidence to prove a federal crime,” Bharara said in a statement.

“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 added.

In a statement issued after Bhrara’s announcement, Elkan Abramowitz, the lawyer for Cuomo’s office, said in a statement, “We were always confident there was no illegality here, and we appreciate the U.S. attorney clarifying this for the public record.”

Cuomo created the Moreland Commission in 2013 with wide-ranging powers to issue subpoenas and investigate legislative corruption. Bharara was one of the first witnesses to testify before the newly created commission, and a former assistant in his office was a key staffer.

In 2014 the governor and legislative leaders — Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos — agreed as part of a package of ethics reforms to disband the commission, and Bharara subpoenaed all of its records.

Commission members later complained that Cuomo’s office had tried to influence some of the group’s work, but Cuomo argued that since he created the commission, it was not legally independent and he was free to monitor it.

The records of the commission later aided in charges Bharara brought in 2015 against Skelos and Silver, who were convicted of corruption charges and lost their legislative seats.

The investigation of the handling of the commission itself, however, had remained officially open until Bharara’s statement on Monday.


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