By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
But Pyun got "a little nervous" midway through the interview and suddenly announced that she'd better consult with her supervisor. Soon an "agitated" Cathy Blaney, a finance director in the Pataki campaign, appeared, declaring: "You can't come in here asking questions." Blaney insisted on written questions submitted 48 hours ahead of any future interview, and Slater departed. A chronology Slater later submitted to the grand jury noted that after he left, Pyun and Blaney called Danny Wiese, telling him about the Slater visit. The chronology was based on phone records, subsequent testimony, and other subpoenaed evidence gathered by Slater and federal investigators.
Since Wiese was an inspector in the state police (promoted from major in 1996), he obviously had no duty to the Pataki campaign, making Blaney's decision to turn to him peculiar. But Blaney apparently understood what several Pataki insiders have told the Voice: Wiese was already a key partner in the Pataki political family, and he responded to Blaney's call as if he'd received a mandate from the governor himself. The next day he went to police headquarters to demand an explanation from NYPD brass, accompanied by Tom Curitore, the cop from the city's intelligence squad assigned to Pataki whenever he was in New York City. Wiese wound up meeting with the NYPD's chief of detectives, Bill Allee, introduced by Curitore. After hearing Wiese's complaint, Allee called Slater's captain, and the captain ordered Slater to go see Allee "immediately."
"I heard you were over on Lexington Avenue conducting an investigation," Allee said. "I would like to know what the case is about, could you tell us?" Slater proceeded to recount to the state police official and city cop closest to the governor everything he knew about a grand-larceny investigation involving the governor's campaign. He later testified that he had no idea Wiese worked directly for the governor and ran his detail. Slater even told Wiese about the wired conversation with Pyun, noting that Yoo was "using the governor's name, throwing that name around." Wiese was off to the side, silent during Slater's account. Then he exploded.
"Do you know who you are dealing with?" Wiese boomed. Slater later testified that from "the way Wiese said it"in a "loud, power-type voice"he understood Wiese to be telling him "that I should back off, but I didn't."
Allee, who has since retired and was seen by investigators as trying to cozy up to this high state official, declared: "You are going into state office buildings interviewing people in regards to this state, the state police should have notified." In truth, Slater had questioned campaign officials at a campaign office about campaign contributions. "I would like you to keep Inspector Wiese updated on this investigation," ordered Allee, a bizarre proposition since Allee knew it was the targeted Pataki committee that had told Wiese about the inquiry in the first place. When Slater agreed, Wiese handed him his card. "I just threw the card in the brown manila case folder," said Slater. "I didn't even look at it."
The Fox in the Henhouse
Slater "let things cool down" for a week or two, and finally called Wiese. The voice who answered the number on Wiese's card said, "Governor's Mansion, Trooper So-and-So." Slater left a message for Wiese, but was instead called back by Michael Prunty, who identified himself as an investigator working in the Manhattan criminal division of the state police. Prunty said Wiese had assigned him to assist in the Yoo investigation. What Prunty did not say, but Slater subsequently learned, was that Prunty was a Pataki bodyguard.
Prunty and Curitore soon came to see Slater at headquarters, going over the entire case, including listening to the Pyun tape. Prunty asked Slater to bring in Michael Jhang so he could interview him, and on October 22, Prunty and Curitore took the son over the same trail that Slater had, with one surprising new development. Jhang's parents were vacationing in Korea at the time, and out of the blue, Yoo had suddenly called them. Slater was shocked because Yoo had been evasive, abrupt, and unhelpful in a conversation with the senior Jhang shortly before Prunty and Curitore joined the case. But now, with the joint investigation under way, Yoo was reaching out for the Jhangs.
Later that same day, Slater, Prunty, and Curitore went to Brooklyn to attempt to do the initial interview with the Chungs, the second family that had complained to the campaign that Yoo had promised parole for donations. The walls of the apartment were covered with photos of the Chungs with Pataki, former senator Al D'Amato, and Patrick Donahue, who ran the Pataki finance committee with Blaney. The Chungs were unwilling to tell their story until Slater got a Korean friend of his to speak to them on the phone.
They finally laid the facts out in a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot near their house, recounting how they'd donated $9,500 after Yoo promised the early release of their son, a convicted murderer. Mrs. Chung described conversations about the release not just with Yoo but with Donahue. Prunty was so upset about the Chung account of Donahue's role that he told Slater: "If Patrick did that, he has to go." Mrs. Chung even confronted the governor face-to-face as he was leaving a Queens fundraiser, discovering that he didn't know what she was talking about when she asked about her imprisoned son.