New York, NY —
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has appointed former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye as an independent counsel to oversee two criminal investigations into the Paterson Administration. One concerns allegations that Gov. David Paterson participated in a cover up of a domestic violence incident involving a top aid. The other stems from an ethics panel report that says Paterson solicited free tickets to a Yankees World Series game and then lied about it when questioned by the ethics commission.
Cuomo, who is considered likely to run for governor, says he wants to avoid any possible appearance of political conflict.
“I understand the political environment, and I understand the ferocity of politics in New York,” Cuomo says. “It is incredibly important to all of us that the public have 100 percent confidence.”
Recent polls show the Attorney General’s approval rating is down since he began the two probes, but Cuomo says polls were not a factor in his decision to hand over the investigations to Judge Kaye.
Cuomo says he has already interviewed dozens of witnesses, though not Gov. Paterson or his former aid David Johnson, and that he has poured through hundreds of documents. He says the preliminary probe has found both potential criminal cases have merit.
“We believe a thorough investigation is warranted on both matters,” Cuomo says. “Therefore, we are referring both.”
The Attorney General says it’s become evident that the investigations will go on for some time.
Cuomo will need to announce his run for governor before the state party convention in May, and on-going investigations into the sitting governor might interfere with that timetable. But Cuomo denies that was a factor in his decision and says he wants more time available for Paterson, who requested the probe in the domestic violence matter, to “make his case”.
Paterson dropped out of the gubernatorial race earlier this month.
Cuomo says Judge Kaye will have, “broad, sweeping powers,” at her disposal in the investigations, including subpoena powers and the right to present evidence to a grand jury if she determines that is necessary. She will also be able to issue a report detailing her findings.