ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Legal experts came together in hopes for change during an ethics panel at the College of Saint Rose.
U.S. Attorney of New York’s Southern District Preet Bharara headlined the discussion and received strong support from the crowd each time he spoke.
“The fundamental beginning principle is that no one is above the law, and no matter how much money you have, how powerful you are, who you’re connected to,” he said.
Bharara shared his thoughts on cases involving public officials. He said prosecutors bring a greater amount of care and consideration into bringing charges against them. He also said he has multiple people review the cases along the way.
“We are not in the business of trying to substitute our judgment for the voter’s judgment,” he said.
E.Stewart Jones Jr, a criminal defense attorney, disagrees.
“The higher the profile, the greater risk of investigation and prosecution,” he said.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York Grant Jaquith said the high profile cases provide unique challenges in getting a fair and impartial jury.
“Jurors or prospective jurors might feel such a degree of kinship because they voted for that person,” he said.
On the topic of ethics reform, Bharara had strong words for state lawmakers and cited their track record in recent years.
“This would be the time for there to be, you know, more reform not less,” he said. “It would be a time to actually not be removing watchdogs and not be, you know, removing oversight but increasing oversight.”
The audience went home having a greater sense of how federal corruption cases come about and work.