In NYC trial, the mayor and his money become focus

By SAMANTHA GROSS | October 8, 2011 | 2:50 PM EDT

FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2011 file photo, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses a gathering in New York. New Yorkers are fascinated by the mayor's fortune and the lifestyle that comes with it. His wealth has helped raise Bloomberg's national profile, fed speculation that he would make a self-funded run for the presidency, and provided evidence to voters of the business acumen that was a major rationale for his candidacies. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg isn't on trial.

But the defense in the case of an ex-operative accused of stealing more than $1 million from the billionaire has turned the focus to him — and his money.

John Haggerty's lawyers are drawing on what is a lingering fear for some New Yorkers — that the mayor's wealth and the influence it brings has handed him too much power. As the defense questioned, when someone is that rich, can they be forced to play by the same rules as everybody else?

Bloomberg says his money has allowed him to stay above the political fray. Because he spent more than $250 million of his own money on three mayoral campaigns, he says he can make decisions unfettered by obligations to donors.