Yankee tickets causing more pressure for Paterson

March 4, 2010 6:22:12 AM PST
Governor Paterson could be looking at criminal charges. A state ethics report says he may have lied under oath and accepted illegal gifts.

The finding will mean more work for the state attorney general and the Albany district attorney.

Meanwhile, Governor Paterson met with his cabinet to discuss the state's financial crisis despite growing resignation calls and the Yankee tickets problem.

Paterson was charged with an ethics violation on Wednesday in connection with free tickets to a Yankees World Series game.

The Public Integrity Commission accused Paterson of using his office to get Yankee tickets to game one of the World Series.

The report says he lied under oath and that the governor's intention was to receive and accept the tickets without paying for them until a press inquiry. The report says he then backdated a check to pay for them.

"I don't even think I was accused of back-dating a check, but I don't want to go into the facts on that right now," Paterson said to reporters.

It's a familiar refrain. The governor says he's done nothing wrong.

"We also dispute that I solicited anything from the Yankees and acted improperly," he said.

Yet upstairs at the capitol Wednesday afternoon, friends of the governor were shocked at this latest bit of bad news.

"It's terrible. In a word, it is not what we would expect of a governor or any of us for that matter," State Senator Bill Perkins said.

The day began with the governor meeting his staff, telling them he won't resign amidst allegations he tried to intervene in a domestic violence case against one of his top aides David Johnson.

Sources tell Eyewitness News that Governor David Paterson told staffer Deneane Brown to tell Sherr-una Booker to "make this go away," referring to the domestic violence accusations against Paterson's aide David Johnson.

Eyewitness News has also learned that Brown and her attorney met with Attorney General investigators today, but she would not answer specific questions pending further discussions.

On Halloween in the Bronx, Sherr-una Booker told police she was roughed up by Johnson, her boyfriend at the time, but she decided not to press charges. At issue is whether Paterson or anyone from his staff or security detail influenced her decision.

Paterson has acknowledged that he spoke with Booker, but said she initiated the call. He said he did not try to get her to change her story or tell her not to pursue a charge.

On Tuesday, State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt abruptly announced he would retire effective Wednesday. Last week, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell quit after criticizing contact that Paterson, his staff and the state police had with the woman at the center of the domestic assault complaint.

Paterson repeated Wednesday that he'll soon give his side of the scandal that continues to chip away at his administration but said he wouldn't do so yet because it could interfere with the investigation. Amid support from lawmakers and some calls for him to resign, the governor has said he won't step down.

"My side of the story will not be unsourced. It will not be in inaccurate. It will be the truth," he said Wednesday, taking a swipe at some media reports on the scandal.

"I told the staff today there are a lot of things we can still accomplish for the people of the state of New York," he said.

By late in the afternoon, the new allegations about Yankee tickets sparked another round of questions about whether the governor can even govern.

"These are obviously serious allegations that the governor will have to address," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said.

More responses from Paterson on Wednesday:

When will you tell your story?

"I would really like to tell my story. I have worked on domestic violence issues for over 20 years and I think I'm sensitive to victims and also prospective victims and I think that I would relish the opportunity to talk to you about this right now. But when I read these accounts that are unsourced and inaccurate, it's obviously frustrating. But the hope for me is, that the attorney general's investigation is a place where witnesses have to take and an oath and hopefully where the truth comes out. And then the truth comes out, I'm confident I'll be vindicated."

What did you tell the staff today?

"This isn't an end it is a beginning. There are a lot of things that we can still accomplish for the people of the state of New York. A lot of goals that I'd like to achieve. They won't be obfuscated by time I would have had to take away to campaign, so its an immense opportunity, but we've got to take advantage of it."

Did you ever try to drop or alter accusations?

"There is an obvious answer to that question that I want to give you, but I would presume that in an investigation they will ask me the same question, and my answer will carry more weight with them because it is a fact-finding expedition. And I will clear it up with them at that time, and I'm sure they will ask me."

Democratic County Chairman Jay Jacobs said you would go public soon. Are you taking that advice?

"It is certainly good advice but I won't be able to do that unless I have some kind of assurance from the investigation that it is not impeding on the investigation. I am not going to do anything to interfere with the investigation, which is a government function. Now I think that when you start reading all kinds of accounts that would like to lead the public to what was actually said and its very possible that that was not said, that is an interference with an investigation."

Polls indicate that most new Yorkers want you to stay on.

"I appreciate that very much because people should have a right to tell their side of the story and I guess I will get that right and I can't be more moved than that the public understands that. Because when you read some of these accounts, you would think that it would change people's minds. But I am glad to see that people understand that there are different sides to a story."