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Thursday, February 25, 2010

NY Times Gov. Paterson Story Includes Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power

The original rumors about the NY Times breaking a scandal about NY Gov. Paterson was that it was some sort of sex scandal. Then there was the story that, several Paterson aides have signaled they may quit over what some call his "corrupt decision" to give the lucrative Aqueduct gaming contract to a questionable consortium that includes the Rev. Floyd Flake of Queens, whose political support the poll-challenged governor has aggressively sought. That investigation is still open.

Last night the Times finally broke its story and it involves neither the Governor sleeping around or the Aqueduct influence peddling, but something worse, abuse of power and obstruction of Justice. According to the story, a Paterson aide was accused in court of assaulting a woman and the governor used the state police as a secret police, harassing the woman to drop the cases.
Last fall, a woman went to court in the Bronx to testify that she had been violently assaulted by a top aide to Gov. David A. Paterson, and to seek a protective order against the man.
In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.
Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.

Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear, but the accounts presented in court and police records and interviews with the woman’s lawyer and others portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.
This isn't a case of the Governor fixing a parking ticket, this is abuse of police and political power, to obstruct justice and protect someone with a history of assaults on women.
The case involved David W. Johnson, 37, who had risen from working as Mr. Paterson’s driver and scheduler to serving in the most senior ranks of the administration, but who also had a history of altercations with women.
A review of Mr. Johnson's rise history  has showed that he was twice arrested on felony drug charges as a teenager, including selling cocaine to an undercover officer in Harlem. Mr. Johnson, 37, has at least one other arrest, for misdemeanor assault in the 1990s. He has also on three occasions been involved in altercations with women, two of which led to calls to the police.
...Through a spokesman, Mr. Paterson said the call [to the female victim]actually took place the day before the scheduled court hearing and maintained that the woman had initiated it. He declined to answer further questions about his role in the matter.
The woman’s lawyer, Lawrence B. Saftler, said that the conversation lasted about a minute and that the governor asked how she was doing and if there was anything he could do for her. “If you need me,” he said, according to Mr. Saftler, “I’m here for you.”

Mr. Saftler said the governor never mentioned the court case, but he would not say if the call had influenced her decision not to return to court.
But the call just "happened to come" when the the news reached Albany that the NYT was looking into the background of Johnson and the fact that his increasing influence with the governor had disturbed some current and former senior aides to Mr. Paterson.
The woman’s lawyer asked that she not be identified by name because she feared retaliation, in part because she works at a public hospital.
The alleged assault happened shortly before 8 p.m. on Halloween in the apartment she had shared with Mr. Johnson and her 13-year-old son for about four years, according to police records.

She told the police that Mr. Johnson, who is 6-foot-7, had choked her, stripped her of much of her clothing, smashed her against a mirrored dresser and taken two telephones from her to prevent her from calling for help, according to police records.
The woman was twice granted a temporary order of protection against Mr. Johnson, according to the proceedings in Family Court in the Bronx.

“I’m scared he’s going to come back,” she said, according to the proceedings, in which a court referee at the initial hearing noted bruises on the woman’s arm.
“I’m glad you’re doing this,” the woman told the referee, “because I thought it was going to be swept under the table because he’s like a government official, and I have problems even calling the police because the state troopers kept calling me and harassing me to drop the charges, and I wouldn’t.” She added, “I’ve never been through this before.”
The day after the state police made an intimidation"visit" the victim .
“The State Police contacted me because they didn’t want me to get an order of protection or press charges or anything,” she told the court.
The State Police superintendent, Harry J. Corbitt, said he was told of the episode within 24 hours after it occurred. He confirmed that a state police officer had met with the woman, even though the episode occurred in the jurisdiction of the New York Police Department. He said the visit was made only to tell the woman of her options, including seeking counseling. “We never pressured her, at least what I was advised; we never pressured her not to press charges,” said Mr. Corbitt, whom the governor appointed. “We just gave her options.”
The woman gets a home visit from the NY State Police who isn't even supposed to be involved in the case, Corbitt knows very well that the Officers didn't have to say anything intimidating for the woman to be intimidated.
He said that such an inquiry was customary for the department if an episode involved a high-profile person, and that it was done in the 24 hours afterward.

“It’s typical if it involves anything that might involve a media event; it doesn’t have to be a senior official to the governor,” Mr. Corbitt said. “It could be a politician or a high-profile physician, anything that might pique interest in the press, because it’s a special circumstance.”
Go Ahead Mr. Corbitt, name one other person you have done this for.

The State Police has a detail, or team, of about 200 officers who provide personal security for the governor and his family and officials traveling with them including at times Mr. Johnson.
It was a member of that detail who visited the woman. Mr. Corbitt, asked again if the woman had been pressured, said: “I’m not sure of her emotional state; I don’t know her. It just doesn’t make sense to me that we would do that.”
But Mr. Corbitt did allow that casual conversations may have occurred between the State Police and the woman that went further. “I’m sure that the person who spoke to her officially didn’t do that, and I can’t address any unofficial conversations because I have no way to,” he said. “If she had a conversation over coffee, perhaps somebody would have had that conversation, but if so I’m not aware of it.”
If this story is proved in court this will be the end of Paterson's Political career, New Yorkers can deal with a sex scandal as long as it doesn't involve state funds, they can even deal with influence peddling, but they will never deal with obstruction of justice and abusing power at the expense of a battered woman.

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