New York Governor David Paterson shouldn’t face criminal charges for involving himself in a domestic violence case tied to a former top aide, according to a report by the state’s former chief judge, Judith Kaye.
Kaye, appointed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to oversee an investigation, said in the report released today that the governor made “errors in judgment” in initiating contacts with the aide’s girlfriend. Kaye said the evidence may warrant criminal charges only against the aide. Her recommendations aren’t binding on Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.
“I’d like to thank Judge Kaye, but I can’t comment on it because I haven’t read the report,” the governor said today at a press conference at his Manhattan office.
Paterson’s attorney, Theodore V. Wells Jr. of the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, said in a statement that the governor “has always maintained that he did nothing improper.”
“The governor is pleased that Judge Kaye, after a thorough and independent investigation, has exonerated him of any wrongdoing in this matter,” Wells said.
Paterson, 56, withdrew Feb. 26 as a candidate for this year’s governor’s election after the New York Times reported his involvement in the assault case. The governor suspended the aide, David Johnson, 37, without pay in February. A judge dismissed the case a day after the governor had contact with the woman, Sherr-una Booker, the Times said.
“There were numerous telephone contacts between the governor and Booker, some that he initiated even after he became aware of the serious nature of her accusations, and even just after he referred this matter” to the New York attorney general, Kaye said in the report. “These were errors of judgment.”
Kaye found errors in judgment also were made by the head of the governor’s state police protection detail, by another close aide to the governor and by David Johnson.
“We are still reviewing the case,” Steve Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, said in an interview today.
Booker testified that David Johnson was angry about her Halloween costume and, on Oct. 31, became violent, choking her, throwing her against a dresser and tearing off the costume, according to the report.
Johnson tried to prevent her from calling the police, according to Booker and a friend who was present. She called 911 three times that night. The NYPD classified the incident as a “dispute,” a low priority call, the report said.
More than 30 witnesses, including the governor, testified as part of the investigation. The probe also included law enforcement reports, 911 audio records and tens of thousands of e-mails from the executive chamber and other state agencies, the state police, and the personal e-mails of involved parties, according to the report.