By LOUIS FLORES
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Brooklyn have brought 54 cases of public corruption against officials or significant political operatives since 2010, according to information obtained by Progress Queens.
During this time, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's eastern district, which includes Queens and is headquartered in Brooklyn, brought 19 public corruption cases, and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for New York's southern district, which is headquartered in Manhattan, brought 35 cases, according to a review of information performed by Progress Queens.
Some of the public corruption cases brought by Brooklyn Federal prosecutors have notably included those of Wendell Walters, who, following his conviction, was described as the highest-ranking official in the administration of then Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City) to have faced corruption charges, according to a report published by The New York Daily News, in his case for racketeering conspiracy and soliciting bribes and kickbacks, and James Burke, the former Suffolk County Police Chief – the highest ranking police official to be charged by any of the Federal prosecutors' offices during this time, in his case for a civil rights violation and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The public corruption cases brought by Manhattan Federal prosecutors reached a peak with the back-to-back convictions in separate public corruption cases against each of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Lower East Side) and former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). The list of corruption cases are also notable for prominent political names that were absent. Despite questions having been raised for years about how politically-connected lawyers may be influencing the court systems in Queens, Brooklyn Federal prosecutors have not publicly acknowledged any investigation into the Queens Democratic County Committee. Despite numerous media reports that questioned whether Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) was providing official acts to his various political committees, Manhattan Federal prosecutors recently announced that they were closing their reported, wide-ranging investigation.
A hypothetical rebalancing of case loads would have tied New York's Federal prosecutors' offices
In one instance during the time period under review, Brooklyn Federal prosecutors brought a case against an official, Pedro Espada, who was a former elected official in the Bronx, which is in the jurisdiction of Manhattan Federal prosecutors. In nine instances during the review period, Manhattan Federal prosecutors brought cases against officials, who lived in or represented constituents in the jurisdiction of Brooklyn Federal prosecutors. If Brooklyn and Manhattan Federal prosecutors had handed off prosecution between their offices of cases that could have originated in the others' jurisdiction, then each U.S. Attorney's Office would have brought 27 cases during this time period under this hypothetical rebalancing of cases, according to an analysis of information performed by Progress Queens.
As reported by Progress Queens, various factors may influence why one Federal prosecutors' office may prosecute a case outside its jurisdiction. Although Federal prosecutors can accept some cases when cases of significant Government officials pose a problem for a District Attorney's Office, it is not possible to confirm when problems posed by cases or reluctance, either real or perceived, by a District Attorney's Office to investigate a Government official leads to a Federal investigation to compensate for a Municipal prosecutor's inaction. Different prosecutors' offices are motivated by policing the violation of different sets of laws. Criminal corruption cases brought by the offices of Federal prosecutors, in large part, are predicated on the violation of Federal laws. According to information obtained by Progress Queens, there are instances when Federal prosecutors consider prosecuting cases that involve the violation of State laws ; in those cases, Federal prosecutors reportedly confer with Municipal prosecutors to determine the best venue to try those cases. Other factors may determine the venue of corruption cases, such as the evidence provided by victims or witnesses, evidence uncovered by prosecutors' offices during the course of existing investigations, or the referral to a specific prosecutor's office from a law enforcement or regulatory agency. The office of the New York State Attorney General has, at times, for example, asserted jurisdiction to conduct investigations or prosecutions, and this assertion could be made on other factors. The highest-ranking State prosecutor, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D-New York), must run a political campaign to win elected office. Some of these factors contribute, in part, to some prosecutors' offices accepting cases that may originate outside their jurisdiction.
During the review period, the Brooklyn Federal prosecutors' office was headed by three U.S. Attorneys or Acting U.S. Attorneys : Loretta Lynch, Kelly Currie, Robert Capers, and Bridget Rohde. During the review period, the Manhattan Federal prosecutors' office was headed by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim.
These calculations do not include officers of the New York Police Department, particularly those, who have been arrested as part of a wide-ranging, Federal corruption investigation of the Government of the City of New York.
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