Manhattan federal prosecutors Thursday blasted indicted former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, calling his claims that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara made unethical out-of-court statements on the case a "transparent attempt to distract the court and the public."
Silver, charged in two bribery schemes, moved last week to dismiss the charges because of Bharara's comments in a press conference, speech and TV interview about corruption in Albany, accusing the high-profile prosecutor of improperly trying to prejudice jurors.
Bharara is scheduled to make another public appearance Friday as keynote speaker at a Fordham Law School corruption conference. In Thursday's filing responding to Silver, his office said anti-corruption crusading is part of his job description. "It is squarely within the role and duty of the U.S. Attorney, as the chief federal law enforcement officer in this district, to speak out about the causes of public corruption and potential means of combating it," wrote prosecutor Carrie Cohen.
Silver was charged in January with making $4 million from two corrupt schemes in which he was accused of helping real estate developers on legislation and allegedly funneled research money to a doctor in return for them using law firms that paid him.
Prosecutors are generally prohibited from making pretrial statements that cross the line from describing charges to trying to influence the result of a case or expressing an opinion on the guilt or innocence of a defendant.
Bharara's filing said all his public comments about Silver -- while using punchy language, such as accusing him of practicing the "greedy art of self-reward" -- have been couched as mere descriptions of the allegations against the ex-speaker.