Paterson suspends aide caught in controversy

Gov. David Paterson aide David Johnson is highlighted in this picture.

February 24, 2010 8:52:33 PM PST
Gov. David Paterson is suspending a close aide and asked for an investigation by the attorney general. A story in the New York Times linked the aide to a claim of domestic violence involving a former girlfriend.

Paterson is suspending 37-year-old David Johnson, his close aide who rose from volunteer to driver to confidant in over a decade of working for the Democrat.

"Because of the seriousness of these allegations, and the sensitive role of this staff member in my Administration, I am asking the Attorney General to investigate the matter to ensure in the public's mind that a comprehensive and independent inquiry has been conducted. Pending the outcome of the investigation, I am suspending David Johnson without pay," Paterson said in a written statement.

The claims included in the Times article that state police may have pressured her to drop a criminal case against Johnson.

"Superintendent Harry Corbitt has directed the State Police to conduct an internal investigation into this matter. I have full faith and trust in the integrity and ability of the State Police to conduct a thorough investigation," Paterson said.

The article cited court records and the woman's lawyer to present a case of domestic violence and a possible effort to avoid a potential political embarrassment.

The Times reported that the woman had been contacted by a member of the governor's state police security detail even though she claimed the Halloween incident happened in the Bronx and state police had no jurisdiction there. But the newspaper stated details of the governor's involvement are unclear.

"We never pressured her, at least what I was advised; we never pressured her not to press charges," Corbitt was quoted by the newspaper. "We just gave her options."

Corbitt was asked by the Times if there were other visits by state police. He said, "I can't address any unofficial conversations because I have no way to."

The woman's lawyer, Lawrence B. Saftler, said Paterson called the woman in February and asked if he could help her, but the lawyer wouldn't say if the call prompted her to drop the case. The governor's office said the woman, not the governor, made the call.