Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Preet Bharara

For prosecutors, Olympus is SDNY — the Southern (or, some would say, Sovereign) District of New York. And Preet Bharara is its Zeus. Without drama, his Manhattan team has battled terrorism, convicting the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad; crippled international criminal networks run by Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Jamaican drug trafficker Christopher Coke and Colombian rebel group FARC; and in March secured a half-billion-dollar forfeiture from computer contractor SAIC in the biggest fraud ever against New York City. Those are good cases well prosecuted.

What sets Preet, 43, apart is his ability to see the next battleground — witness the takedown of members of the Anonymous and LulzSec hacker networks. What sets him above is the patience honed by principle. For years, as others clamored for scalps after the global financial crisis, Preet resisted the temptation of a sloppy kill and instead waited for the facts. His 58-0 record for insider-trading cases bodes ill for the bankers whom his office has charged with reckless lending practices or inflating mortgage values.

Preet, my best friend since the first day of college, is the Platonic ideal described by his hero Robert H. Jackson: a prosecutor "who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes and who approaches his task with humility." Jackson served as Solicitor General, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice and chief prosecutor at Nuremberg. But never mind all that. As Preet said when sworn into office, being U.S. Attorney for SDNY "is certainly the greatest privilege I will ever have, no matter how long I live."

Dinh is a law professor and former Assistant Attorney General of the United States