The PJ Tatler

Is the Noose Closing Around Andrew Cuomo?

You have to like the cut of this guy Preet Bharara’s jib. The Indian-born U.S. attorney has just taken down the stupefyingly corrupt speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and now may have an even bigger target in his sights: Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself. Albany insider Fred Dicker has the scoop at the New York Post:

Gov . Cuomo is “freaked-out and furious” over the bombshell criminal charges dropped on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week — and “obsessed with fear’’ because of the ongoing federal corruption probe.

One source described Cuomo as “doubly enraged’’ by hard-driving Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s decision to bring the five criminal corruption charges against Silver just hours after the governor delivered his State of the State address — and then, less than 24 hours after that, to indict Albany’s “three men in a room’’ culture in which Cuomo is the lead player. “Cuomo feels Preet just walked all over him,’’ said the source.

Knowledgeable insiders, including law-enforcement experts, said it wasn’t accidental that Bharara brought the charges against Silver just hours after Cuomo’s State of the State. “Prosecutors have a lot of discretion, and when they time a high-profile arrest in a way that steps all over Cuomo’s speech, that’s the use of discretion for a purpose,’’ a former federal prosecutor told The Post.

Well, that certainly was a warning shot across the bow of a guy who’s no stranger to power politics. and around whom the stink of corruption is so redolent that even the Democrat operatives at the New York Times couldn’t endorse him for re-election last year. What got everybody who’s not on the take’s attention was Cuomo’s abrupt shutdown of the Moreland Commission, which had been impaneled to root out corruption in state government. When the commission started sniffing a little too close to the Cuomo throne, Mario’s boy pulled the plug on it.

And several sources described Cuomo — who along with his aides is being investigated by Bharara over the abrupt disbanding of the governor’s Moreland Act commission on public corruption — as “on edge’’ over Bharara’s ominous statement Friday that the public should “stay tuned’’ for more criminal charges to come.

“Andrew’s been working the phones day and night, staying up into the early morning hours, making hundreds of calls in one day trying to find out what the hell is going on,’’ a source close to the governor said. Cuomo, who has retained a private lawyer, has enlisted several former federal and state-level prosecutors with ties to Bharara’s office including Steve Cohen, his former chief-of-staff, in an effort to find out Bharara’s next move, the sources said.

“He’s freaked-out, furious, and obsessed with fear, it’s like a nightmare for him. The whole narrative he laid out for his second term has been derailed by Bharara,’’ said a source in regular contact with the governor. “The narrative has been taken over by Bharara and it’s all about Albany’s corruption, not Cuomo and his program for the state,’’ the source said.

Gee, that’s too damn bad. But trying to bury bad news is par for the course for the Cuomo family, which still has this choice skeleton in its closet, left over from 1987 and never satisfactorily explained:

At the start of a police inquiry into the beating of Governor [Mario] Cuomo’s father-in-law three years ago, a detective took unorthodox steps that may have hampered the search for evidence, a review of Police Department records and interviews with investigators show.

The detective, Sebastian Pipitone, who serves as a bodyguard for the Governor, said that several hours after the attack and robbery of Mr. Cuomo’s father-in-law, Charles Raffa, he removed Mr. Raffa’s car from a police station house and had it washed. According to police records, the car had not been examined for possible fingerprints or other clues before it was washed.

The Governor, in interviews over the last month, has lashed out at rumors that he said were being spread concerning allegations of misconduct by his relatives. The smear campaign appeared to focus on his in-laws, he said. The only in-law of Mr. Cuomo’s to be involved in recent years in a public incident was Mr. Raffa, who was severely beaten and robbed of a ring in May 1984 in a vacant supermarket he owned in the East New York section of Brooklyn. No suspect has been arrested in the assault case.

Detective Pipitone, through a Police Department spokeswoman, said last week that he had the car cleaned as ”a courtesy” before returning it to Mr. Raffa’s family because the car had been covered with powder used by police specialists who examined it for fingerprints on the day of the assault.

But a review of Police Department records showed that the car was first dusted and examined for fingerprints four days after Mr. Raffa was attacked, not on the day of the attack….

The police official who headed the assault investigation, Capt. Michael Murray, said he had been unaware that the car had been washed until he was informed about it last Thursday. ”It might have hurt the investigation,” Captain Murray said. ”We still don’t know if the car was important, but we would have been better off if it had been left alone.”

Where is Mario Puzo when we need him?