New York Gov. David Paterson, trying to hold onto office in the face of one scandal, was accused Wednesday of violating state ethics laws when he sought and obtained free Yankees tickets for the 2009 World Series and then may have lied about his intention to pay for them, according to a state report.
He faces penalties of nearly $100,000, and the case was referred to the Albany County prosecutor’s office and the state attorney general for possible criminal investigation into whether Paterson — “or anyone else” — gave false answers to commission questions or backdated a check to pay for the tickets.
The charge isn’t directly related to the scandal now plaguing Paterson over contact he and others in his adminstration had with a woman who accused a top Paterson aide of domestic violence. But the Public Integrity Commission said the aide in the scandal, David Johnson, was one of Paterson’s four guests getting tickets for the Oct. 28 World Series game provided by the Yankees.
Four days later, also in the Bronx, Johnson was accused of domestic violence by his friend, a case that now threatens Paterson’s job and administration.
Paterson could face a penalty of $80,000 for violating the state gift ban for elected officials. The commission’s investigation also charged that Paterson violated a provision prohibiting the governor from using his official position to secure unwarranted privileges. That could cost another $10,000.
There was no immediate comment from the governor’s office.
On Halloween in the Bronx, Sherruna Booker told police she was roughed up by Johnson, but she later 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. The New York Times reported this week that the governor had personally directed two state employees to contact the woman.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo — often mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate by the very critics dogging Paterson — is investigating those contacts. Any criminal case will hinge on whether Paterson, staff members or state bodyguards tried to get Booker to change her story, making charges of witness tampering or obstructing justice possible.