More than 38 million adults in the U.S. hunt and fish, but one judge just stopped what he calls a “fishing expedition” run by District Attorney William Fitzpatrick dead in its tracks in an Onondaga County court.
County judge Walter Hafner Jr. created a major setback in Fitzpatrick’s efforts to investigate Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and allegations of misconduct surrounding her political allies.
Fitzpatrick’s investigation began nine months ago, shortly after Miner’s legal struggles with Cor Development Co., which is responsible for the $350 million Syracuse Inner Harbor project. At the time of the investigation’s beginning, Fitzpatrick reported that he was attempting to unveil what seemed to him like an “orchestrated effort” by the Mayor to incriminate Cor.
Despite Fitzpatrick’s best efforts, the investigation has just about fizzled out. Hafner’s “fishing expedition” comment may have been the final nail in the coffin. This is the second incident in less than 10 years in which Fitzpatrick has led a futile criminal investigation of Miner.
Fitzpatrick’s first attempt was immediately after tax hearings regarding the Carousel Center Mall, which is now Destiny USA. Fitzpatrick then claimed that councilors violated an Open Meetings Law before official voting occurred. No charges were filed in that instance and the investigation was closed.
Now, Fitzpatrick is looking into an old legal dispute between Miner and a development company. He is alleging that “phony affidavits” were filed in the lawsuit.
After Judge Hafner’s decision may have just put a stop to this investigation as well. Fitzpatrick has said that he will submit a motion to reverse the judge’s decision, but the likelihood of such a motion being passed is slim, especially considering Judge Hafner’s take on the matter.
Hafner was absolute in his decision and called Fitzpatrick’s request to move the case to be considered by a grand jury “patently absurd.” In addition, Hafner wrote in a statement that “It is not … the function of this court to assist the district attorney in a fishing expedition.”