News & Politics

David Paterson, It’s Time Do a Spitzer (UPDATED)


Who is running the state of New York? Is there any way an embattled governor, fresh off a national lying tour launched on Larry King, can possibly guide a budget through a divided legislature? Is there a shred of credibility left?

I have grown old watching New York politicians and I have yet to feel sympathy for any of them. Most of them have gotten more from public life than they deserved, and no one fits that bill better than Paterson. Decades ago, he was handed a senate seat by a Manhattan Democratic committee when the incumbent suddenly died, and in 2008, he was put at the steering wheel of the state when the elected driver hailed a whore. He’s not just an accidental governor and accidental senator. If he does something right, it’s an accident.

There’s nothing sympathetic about a slugging sidekick, especially one who’s driven a blind and reckless governor down so many dark alleys that the governor decided to take a trip down one for him. Now that Paterson’s attempt to suppress a police complaint against constant companion David Johnson is unraveling, it’s time for the governor Eliot Spitzer gave us to do a Spitzer.

Spitzer had the good sense, within hours of his exposure, to quit. That may have saved him from indictment.

Paterson is already facing possible obstruction and tampering charges. And it’s not just about the conversation he had with Johnson’s girlfriend shortly before she withdrew her request for an order of protection. The cop who was crossing jurisdictional lines to outline her “options” was on Paterson’s detail. My bet is he was one of the three state troopers — all minority — that Paterson brought with him when he replaced Spitzer. They’d guarded him when he was lieutenant governor and he elevated them to the governor’s detail, to the chagrin of the white troopers they replaced.

What are the chances that this trooper doesn’t say under oath that Johnson and Paterson knew what he was doing, and presumably, even asked him to do it? How about the state police superintendent, Harry Corbitt, who told the Times that dispatching troopers on such visits was standard procedure? He’d double the summonses if he got a story like that from a motorist he pulled over. Is it possible that Corbitt, a Paterson appointee, got no green light from the governor? Won’t he tell the truth when prosecutors question him?

I know of one attempt by a trooper to contact a friend of the woman’s, suggesting just how deeply involved the state police were, a fact that forced Paterson’s deputy secretary for criminal justice to resign in disgust two hours ago.

The governor’s press aides started the morning denying that Paterson called the beaten woman, claiming that she called him, though he maintains he barely knew her. They serve up this gruel until it curdles. Now the woman’s lawyer has explained that an intermediary for the governor called her and asked her to dial his number. That’s the only way she would have gotten through to him. In the recent front-page profile of Paterson in the Times, we heard from one of the governor’s top economic development appointees, who said he jumped ship when he couldn’t get so much as a moment with the captain. When 50 people died in a Buffalo crash, Paterson’s top aides couldn’t get him on the phone for hours.

Is there anyway that a criminal lawyer would allow a client like Paterson to testify? If his lies were dollars, New York would have a surplus. Someone has to save him from himself.

Basil, it’s time to be a father, not a facilitator.

Eliot, it’s time to be mentor, not an enabler.

Putting David Paterson under oath will turn a grand jury into a death panel.

UPDATE: State Senator Eric Schniederman, who chairs the senate codes committee that oversees criminal justice agencies, told the Voice that “there is no record” of state police visits to a victim allegedly abused by a state official “ever having been done before.”

Schneiderman called “the idea” that such visits are standard procedure “absurd.” Schneiderman said he had “no idea” what State Police superintendent Harry Corbitt “was talking about” when he claimed in today’s Times story that it was “typical” for the police to dispatch troopers to give an abused woman her “options.” Schneiderman said he and other members and staff of the meeting reviewed the superintendent’s comments today and agreed that the police actions were unprecedented, including the fact that the troopers entered the city to make the visit, going outside their jurisdiction.

“The notion that the state police would get involved in a case like this,” said Schneiderman, “is one of the most despicable allegations I’ve ever heard.” Scheniderman was referring to the police visits and phone calls to the unidentified girlfriend of a top aide to Governor Paterson, David Johnson, after she was apparently beaten by Johnson in October.

Schneiderman declined to comment on whether Paterson should resign or withdraw from his reelection campaign, saying only: “Let the investigation go forward.”

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