A timeline of recent events indicates that David Paterson’s views on the domestic violence case against State Senator Hiram Monserrate may well have been affected by the New York Times‘ investigation of similar allegations against the governor’s top aide and close friend, David Johnson.
In Wednesday’s account of three domestic-violence incidents involving Johnson, the Times noted that Paterson “has also become increasingly vocal in his criticism” of Monserrate, a brief reference to larger questions about the governor’s sudden conversion on the case.
Here’s the timeline:
October 22, 2009: Paterson “declined to join other top Democrats who are calling” for Monserrate’s resignation after his misdemeanor assault conviction, the Associated Press reports.
January 15, 2010: The day the state Senate report on Monserrate is released, Paterson says “either censure or expulsion is warranted,” choices posed by the Senate committee as well. By then, however, many senators and the Paterson-appointed state party chair had already publicly urged resignation or expulsion.
February 4: New York Post bureau chief Fred Dicker mentions that the Times is working on a “bombshell” story about Paterson, and the Observer’s John Koblin tweets about it, spurring rampant speculation about the story. Dicker says the Times had exclusive access to a critical source that obviously proved to be Johnson’s girlfriend. (Johnson is alleged in the Times story, when it’s finally published on February 17, to have had three altercations with the woman, who was not named by the Times but who apparently filed police reports twice and was punched once.)
February 8: Paterson announces that he will call a special election within 30 days of Monserrate’s expulsion, a move that indicates that Senate Democrats will not be without Monserrate’s critical vote long. Not only is it a very short period of time for a special election, it is an unprecedented step before a Senate vote.
February 9: Monserrate is expelled from the Senate.
February 13: Paterson tells the Times that Monserrate got off easy with a misdemeanor conviction and an expulsion, saying that his attack against his girlfriend (he was convicted of dragging her down a hallway) was “just a prelude to another attack.”
February 16: The Times posts its front-page story on Johnson, and Paterson is quoted as telling the paper: “I think in anybody’s history, you can come up with a couple of incidents where they acted improperly.” He added that an incident between Johnson and his girlfriend that occurred as recently as October, around the time of Monserrate’s conviction, “may have been one of them.”
Eric Schneiderman, the state senator who chaired the Monserrate investigation committee, tells the Voice that he had talks with the governor about the case. “David’s position did harden” over time, Schneiderman says. “His position wasn’t as tough in the beginning as it was in the end. I had very specific conversations when I laid out a set of facts for him. Whether there was some other motivation for his stronger position, perhaps. I’m just glad he agreed.”
Schneiderman says he’d like to think he persuaded Paterson to adopt a tougher stance, indicating that Paterson’s eventual statement adopted one of the arguments he forcefully presented to the governor.