Governor David Paterson’s “I’m-there-for-you” call to Sherr-una Booker, the day before her scheduled court appearance for an order of protection against Paterson’s top aide, was apparently a reference to Booker’s concerns about a recurrence of cancer.
Booker did not appear in court the next day, dropping a case she’d pursued for three months.
Paterson has made this claim in conversations with others as part of an effort to paint his reach-out to Booker in as positive a light as possible. Combined with the relentless efforts of the state police, ostensibly dispatched by Paterson or the top aide, David Johnson, to convince Booker to drop the complaint, however, Paterson’s gentler approach has taken on a good cop/bad cop aura, with the bad cops actually being cops.
As Paterson tells the story, Booker had already survived one bout with cancer, and he had helped her in some way, possibly either with hospital or other arrangements. His reassurances were intended to convey his willingness to help again. That’s why, according to the Times, Paterson “asked if the woman was all right” and told her: “If you need me, I’m there for you.”
Booker had persisted with the complaint in two previous court appearances, despite earlier contacts by state troopers and her friend Deneane Brown, an aide to Paterson in his senate days who is now a $78,744 official at the state’s housing agency. Booker described the state police efforts as harassment in her court appearances, but her lawyer, Lawrence Safter, refused to answer Times questions about whether Paterson’s softer appeal “influenced her decision” not to appear.
Sources indicate that Booker has described a similar sequence, including the cancer concerns, to investigators in the office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Ironically, the Paterson call to Booker occurred on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7, when Paterson says he was watching the game with his father, Basil, and brother, Daniel. Paterson later claimed that, in addition to his contact with Booker that day, three other calls were made by unknown individuals, “timed exactly at the beginning of the Super Bowl,” to news organizations telling them that the governor would resign on Monday after the Times published an expected bombshell story.
Twitter was instantly alive with the same speculation. No story appeared on Monday, but Paterson visited the Times editorial board that morning—the same day that Booker dropped the case—and made a put-up-or-shut-up demand about the paper’s much-rumored story (at least that’s what he claimed in a subsequent Don Imus appearance).
When the initial story did appear on February 17, alluding to the October incident and other abuse issues involving Johnson, Paterson immediately denounced the paper for printing unsubstantiated allegations. “There is no independent evidence presented that would substantiate any charges of violence,” Paterson’s statement read, citing “the absence of a single judicial finding that any such incident ever took place.” Having successfully convinced Booker to drop the complaint, Paterson was cautioning others against making “a similar rush to judgment,” referring to the Times story. His office later noted that the complaint “had been withdrawn.”
Brown, who was also called by at least one state trooper, was the intermediary who set up the conversation between Booker and Paterson, and she was so convinced that Paterson’s intercession had worked that she told an associate that Monday that everything was okay.
The wife of top Bloomberg aide Larry Scott Blackmon, Brown is a member of Community Board 10 in Harlem, appointed by Borough President Scott Stringer. She and Blackmon declined to talk to the Voice, said her attorney Paul Martin. But Brown was questioned extensively by Cuomo’s office on Friday. Sources said she initially wasn’t fully cooperative, but then wept when confronted by Cuomo investigators with details and told the entire story of her involvement.
She joined Paterson’s Senate staff in 2002 and became his communications director. When he was elected lieutenant governor, Brown took a job with the Department of Housing and Community Renewal. Blackmon worked in Bloomberg’s 2005 and 2009 campaigns. After serving as deputy commissioner in the Department of Small Business Services in the second term, he recently returned to the administration as a $157,000 deputy commissioner in the parks department.
Research assistance: Alana Horowitz, Bill Kline, Cat Contiguglia, Sara Gates, Scott Greenberg, and Simon McCormack