Onondaga County DA says 'there's a cancer in the state Legislature'

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick

Evoking a Watergate-era quote, veteran prosecutor Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick says "There's a cancer in the state Legislature."

Fitzpatrick made the comment Tuesday in Albany. He and the other 61 district attorneys statewide support a bill to give them more power to root out government corruption.

The law would increase penalties for officials convicted of bribery, change the burden for prosecutors to prove corruption, and require everyone to report bribes they overhear. The bill also includes overhauls in campaign finance reform, public finance and election reform.

Fitzpatrick says proof of the cancer is that more than 30 state officials have been hit by scandal over the last seven years. The Republican was paraphrasing then-White House Counsel John Dean, who told President Richard Nixon in 1973 that there was a cancer on the presidency.

"I hate to say it, but right now there's a cancer in the state legislature. When you have 35 elected representatives in the past 6 years who are either under investigation, indicted or convicted, there's a cancer in the legislature," said Fitzpatrick.

He says local prosecutors work closely with federal prosecutors who have handled most of the corruption cases. But Fitzpatrick says Albany corruption is a crime against New Yorkers and has cost millions of dollars.

"When you say to someone, you're going to get a conditional discharge or you're going to fade into the sunset and go retire somewhere and collect your pension, those are not sufficient consequences. The Governor's law gives us teeth to put these people in prison where they frankly so richly deserve to be," said Fitzpatrick.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.)