Embattled Governor Facing Possible Perjury Charges
Friday, August 27, 2010
Gov. David Paterson gave misleading answers to investigators questioning how he got Yankees World Series tickets last year. That's the main finding of Independent Counsel Judith Kaye. WNYC's Bob Hennelly discussed Kaye's findings and their implications.
Remind us what the problem is with the governor going to a World Series game. We see political leaders all the time at major sporting events. Mayor Bloomberg is always at Yankee games, former Mayor Giuliani, they're there all the time. Do these guys pay for their own tickets?
Hennelly: What Judge Kaye basically does is it take a look at what it was that Paterson said about the tickets -- that's the key thing -- in sworn testimony before the ethics commission. As a point of law, state officials cannot take or solicit comp tickets to events. It's very clear in the law. So basically back on opening day of the Yankees World Series, October 28th, the governor was there with four individuals who needed seats, including David Johnson, his aide, Paterson's son and his son's friend. The next day, a [New York] Post columnist, Fred Dicker, called Paterson's press office to ask for details surrounding the tickets. And basically Paterson's press secretary, Peter Kauffmann, responded that after canvassing -- of course -- the Paterson administration that the governor had been invited by the Yankees to attend in an official capacity as a ceremonial occasion. Now Dicker, who's nobody to mess with, immediately called around and found holes in Paterson's story. And as a result, the state commission on public integrity -- like the next day, October 30th -- sent notice to Paterson that they had information that he had violated this law. And so basically, it's not until February of 2010, months later, when Paterson actually gives sworn testimony to the commission that he had intended to pay for the tickets and indeed brought an incomplete check, which he gave to his aide David Johnson. That's when he gets himself into trouble.
So what did Judge Kaye then conclude about the governor's conduct? We're not talking about whether he got a free ticket or not. We're talking about what he said about getting that free ticket.
Right and also, it comes down to whether or not, if he got five free tickets, that's a problem. That is according to the law and then also gets into the question of potential perjury is what looks like a story that Kaye says basically was concocted, if you will. It was made up, that was only generated, this idea of having that partially completed check, that only into place according to Kaye after the press inquiry. After he knew that he was in the crosshairs of the public integrity commission.
OK, so what happens next now? We've been reporting this morning that the Albany DA will now look into this. Is this a criminal investigation now?
Well, it is. What the attorney general is doing is passing along this mountain of evidence they have along with the transcripts from witnesses to David Soares, the Albany County District Attorney. He has jurisdiction because the testimony was taken in Albany County.
So it's not in the Bronx where Yankee Stadium is?
Right. No, it has to do with where the inquiry occurred and where Paterson gave what Kaye says are these misleading answers. And it'll be up to Soares to make an independent judgement as to whether or not this rises to a criminal level of perjury.
Kaye wasn't only looking at the tickets for the World Series. They were other issues. What other issues was she looking at?
Well, this was the case of Governor Paterson getting involved in the domestic violence case surrounding David Johnson, his aide, who was alleged to have beaten up his female companion. The allegation was that Paterson had gotten involved by reaching out for the domestic violence victim and in essence kind of tampering with the key witness in that case. Judge Kaye found there was no criminality in the governor's behavior, just poor judgment. Although subsequently, Johnson has been indicted up in the Bronx on domestic violence charges.
So Gov. David Paterson has just more than four months left on his term. What are the political consequences of this latest turn of events?
It certainly means it puts another burden on Paterson. It's going to be very difficult to be in public when he makes his appearances. They've got to be guarded because now he has this criminal liability. Now, his defense attorney, Ted Wells, managed to find some things in the report that do leave some ambiguity for the governor in terms of what his intentions were when he was before the commission. With the Democratic candidate for governor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, trying to be the gubernatorial candidate for the "new, new New York," it makes it really tough because what sticks in voter's minds, well, there was Eliot Spitzer. He had to leave the stage early because of the prostitution scandal and now of course we have an embattled Gov. Paterson.