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Legislature approves panel to review prosecutor misconduct claims

ALBANY — The state Assembly gave final legislative approval Tuesday to create a commission that would review allegations regarding prosecutors who might have abused their power.

The measure now goes to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his signature or veto.

The Assembly approved the bill creating the commission, 85-36. The Senate approved it last week.

“All America is watching today and in this house we have a chance to leap to the head of the pack . . . to say, ‘We believe in justice,’” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemb. Nick Perry (D-Brooklyn). “Justice will prevail in our state.”

Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) said the bill “is long overdue . . . and it’s necessary.”

Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), however, contended the state attorney general already can investigate prosecutors and there is a danger to having a politically appointed board investigate prosecutors.

“This is more of a political animal,” Palumbo said.

Agreeing with Palumbo, the state District Attorneys Association said the measure will politicize prosecutors and could have a chilling effect on important cases, including those in which government corruption is claimed.

“We’re not opposed to oversight,” said Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, president of the prosecutors’ association.

“The commission is going to be made up of political appointees . . . to oversee prosecutors who are supposed to be independent,” McNamara said in an interview. “This will cause the system to come to a screeching halt.”

He said the group will work to persuade Cuomo, a former prosecutor, the bill is unconstitutional and dangerous for public safety.

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