Spitzer linked to high-end prostitution ring

Loud calls for New York governor to step down
March 10, 2008 8:53:56 PM PDT
Governor Eliot Spitzer's political career may be over, after allegations the man known as "Mr. Clean" has ties to a prostitution ring.The scandal drew loud, immediate calls for the Democrat to step down. At a news conference before about 100 reporters, Spitzer stood with his visibly shaken wife at his side and apologized to his family and the people of New York.

"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," said the 48-year-old father of three teenage girls. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."

He didn't take questions, nor did he discuss the allegations against him or his political future. He ignored shouted questions about whether he would resign.

Spitzer was allegedly caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet in a Washington hotel room the night before Valentine's Day. A law enforcement official who spoke with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity said she was a prostitute from a call-girl business known as the Emperors Club VIP.

The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case Monday. But an affidavit based on the wiretap told of a man identified as "Client 9," supposedly Spitzer, paying $4,300 in cash, some of it credit for future trysts, some of it for sex with a "petite, pretty brunette, 5-feet-5 inches, and 105 pounds," named Kristen.

The scandal came just 16 months after Spitzer stormed into the governor's office. He'd made his name taking on Wall Street executives with a vengeance, and he said as governor he'd do the same -- root out corruption in the state.

But his first year in office has been marked by turmoil, including angry exchanges with Senate GOP leader Joseph Bruno. Several of his aides were even accused of using state police to compile travel records to try to embarrass Bruno. Spitzer had been expected to testify to a state commission concerning his role in that matter. And then, there was an unpopular plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

"He has to step down. No one will stand with him," said Rep. Peter King, a Republican congressman from Long Island. "I never try to take advantage or gloat over a personal tragedy. However, this is different. This is a guy who is so self-righteous, and so unforgiving."

Democratic Assemblyman John McEneny said: "I don't think anyone remembers anything like this - the fact that the governor has a reputation as a reformer and there is a certain assumption as attorney general that you're Caesar's wife. It's a different element than if you were an accountant."

Democratic Lt. Gov. David Paterson would become New York's first black governor if Spitzer were to resign.

The allegations against Spitzer are outlined in papers filed in federal court in New York. A defendant in the case, Temeka Rachelle Lewis, told a prostitute identified only as Kristen that she should take a train from New York to Washington for an encounter with Client 9 on the night of Feb. 13, according to the complaint. The defendant confirmed that the client would be "paying for everything - train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time and hotel."

The prostitute met the client in Room 871 at about 10 p.m., according to the complaint. When discussing how the payments would be arranged, Client 9 told Lewis: "Yup, same as in the past, no question about it" - suggesting Client 9 had done this before.

According to court papers, an Emperors Club agent was told by the prostitute that her evening with Client 9 went well. The agent said she had been told that the client "would ask you to do things that ... you might not think were safe ... very basic things," according to the papers, but Kristen responded by saying: "I have a way of dealing with that ... I'd be, like, listen dude, you really want the sex?"

The ring arranged sex between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, prosecutors said. Four people accused of helping to operate the ring were arrested last week.

The four people arrested were charged with violating the Mann Act, a 1910 federal law against crossing state lines for purposes of prostitution. Federal authorities have brought charges against several prostitution rings over the past two decades, but have generally not prosecuted the customers.

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong," Spitzer said at the news conference. "I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better."