Barely three weeks after a federal judge blasted his pretrial "media blitz" over the prosecution of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara showed caution as he announced criminal charges against Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).
To deliver another extracurricular speech might have proved risky for the prosecutor -- given that U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni warned lawyers for both sides on April 10 not to try the Silver case in the news media.
Besides, Bharara's takedown of a second member of what had been Albany's ruling troika spoke pretty loudly by itself. And word of the coming case had already leaked out, including broad details of its content.
In various forums, Bharara has evoked a culture of influence-peddling at the State Capitol in Albany. So it was noteworthy that when asked Monday about the Skelos case in light of the Silvercase, he said, "I'm not going to draw any comparison or parallel."
The Skelos case, "speaks for itself," Bharara said. "All the cases speak for themselves through our charge documents."
Silver, Skelos and Skelos' adult son, Adam, have pleaded not guilty and may be a long time away from trial.
Bharara has repeatedly attacked a failure by state leaders to reform the way business is done in Albany. But Monday, to a related question, he said: "I don't think this is the time or place to talk about what reforms might have made sense."
Others in a position to enact changes could do so, he suggested.
In ruling on a motion in the Silver case, Caproni wrote that Bharara's public comments linking Silver's alleged actions to others' strayed "close to the edge of the rules governing his own [Bharara's] conduct."
She specifically cited a public speech and news conference Bharara held the day Silver (D-Manhattan) was formally accused of using his powerful position to solicit bribes and kickbacks.
To a reporter's question yesterday about that warning, Bharara smiled just a bit and said: "You're asking me at a press conference to talk about a judge's opinion that talked about a press conference? Nice try."
Still, Bharara's briefing on the criminal complaint against Skelos and his son offered a sound bite with some scope that quickly made the broadcast reports.
"By now two things should be abundantly clear," he said. "First, public corruption is a deep-seated problem in New York State. It is a problem in both chambers. It is a problem on both sides of the aisle. And second, we are deadly serious about tackling that problem."
In a previous appearance, Bharara fed the guesswork in political circles by telling listeners to "Stay tuned."
But when asked about it Monday, he suggested that he hadn't meant anything specific.
"I think implicit at the end of any comment I might make from this podium is, you should stay tuned," which he said would apply to cases involving cybercrimes, gangs and terrorism as well as public corruption.
Now that he's prosecuting the two men who were the key first-term negotiating partners of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Bharara can rest assured that the political world will stay tuned -- without his having to say so.