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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, right, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, left, during a news conference on Tuesday in New York.
Wednesday April 10, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday proposed giving prosecutors more power to combat public corruption and would, for the first time, require public officials to report corrupt actions by their colleagues.

The Public Trust Act would create new crimes and increase penalties for violating existing anti-corruption laws. The proposal would make specific crimes of bribing a public official, scheming to corrupt the government and failing to report public corruption.

Among the tools would be a way for witnesses to receive only partial immunity when testifying before a grand jury, as in federal cases, so that a witness isn’t free from being prosecuted by a local district attorney. The proposal would also hold former elected officials to a five-year statute of limitation for their acts once they leave an elected body. Former elected officials have been involved in some of Albany’s most notorious cases.

Specifically, the proposal would lower the burden for prosecutors in proving bribery of a public official, a felony. Prosecutors would no longer have to prove a corrupt agreement was made, but simply show the bribe was "intended" to influence the official.

Public officials and public employees for the first time would face a misdemeanor if they fail to report suspected corruption by a colleague. Cuomo said the proposal would focus far more attention on ethical behavior.

"When it comes to public integrity, you can’t have enough cops on the beat," Cuomo said. "If you are a public official and you break the law, you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will go to jail."

Cuomo wants the Legislature to approve the measures this session, which ends June 20.