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DA aims to make Spitzer investigation public

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  1. Court Access
Earlier this week, Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares’ office sent a letter to Gov. David Paterson, asking him…

Earlier this week, Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares’ office sent a letter to Gov. David Paterson, asking him to waive executive privilege so a report on an investigation of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his administration could be released to the public.

“The public has expressed great interest in this matter,” the letter reads. “The People have put their trust in your Office, and transparency is the most honorable way of reciprocating that trust.”

The five o’clock deadline that Soares set came and went the next day with no action from the governor.

The request seeks a waiver of all materials relating to last year’s “Troopergate” scandal, which looked at Spitzer and his staff’s role in the attempted discrediting of state Senate Republican Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

Soares issued a report on Sept. 21, 2007, finding no evidence of criminal misconduct. The report was made available to the public because the information collected was given voluntarily (not under a subpoena.)

A month later, the Commission on Public Integrity presented evidence that a former aide may have been coerced into committing perjury in a sworn written statement, which opened up a new investigation (“D”). Spitzer granted a limited waiver of privilege to allow employee interviews and document review. 

Soares is seeking to expand that waiver to allow a report of Investigation “D” to be made public and to reveal e-mails, testimony and other information that was subpoenaed from the grand jury investigation into the perjury charge.

Robert J. Freeman of the New York State Committee to Open Government explained the difficulty of Soares’ requests. “There are some elements that involve testimony before a grand jury, which is confidential,” Freeman said.

Paterson’s office sent a letter to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, asking for a formal advisory opinion on whether the executive can waive all privileges to the documents or if former Gov. Spitzer has his own right to assert privilege; also, whether or not the executive has the power to grant a “waiver of Grand Jury Secrecy.”

The day the attorney general received the letter, his office released a statement saying that a legal analysis of the issues had commenced. Jim Milgram, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said on Thursday that “a review of the application of the laws is ongoing.”