A judge refused on Friday to dismiss corruption charges against Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, whose lawyers had argued thatPreet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, hadmade improper statements that deprived their client of the presumption of innocence.
But the judge, Valerie E. Caproni of Federal District Court, said she did not “condone the government’s brinksmanship relative to the defendant’s fair trial rights, or the media blitz orchestrated by the U.S. attorney’s office” in the days after the arrest of Mr. Silver, the former State Assembly speaker.In an order issued Friday afternoon, District Judge Valerie Caproni ruled that Mr. Bharara’s public remarks following Mr. Silver’s Jan. 22 arrest didn’t merit dismissing the indictment against the longtime Manhattan Democrat.
Still, Judge Caproni wrote, she was “troubled by remarks by the U.S. attorney that appeared to bundle together unproven allegations regarding the defendant with broader commentary on corruption and a lack of transparency in certain aspects of New York state politics.”
“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,” she wrote.A spokeswoman for Mr. Bharara declined to comment.
The judge’s order represents a rare admonishment of a high-profile federal prosecutor. Mr. Bharara, who was sworn in as U.S. attorney in 2009, has taken a strong stand against public corruption, pursuing charges against a number of Albany lawmakers.