New York Governor David Paterson may face criminal charges arising from his “inaccurate and misleading” testimony about how he acquired tickets to a World Series baseball game last year, an independent counsel said.
The governor’s testimony is under review by Albany County District Attorney David Soares, “who will make the ultimate decision regarding whether or not charges should be brought,” according to the report yesterday from Judith Kaye, former chief judge of the state’s highest court.
“The governor did not lie when he testified about the Yankee tickets, and the report does not recommend the bringing of criminal charges or conclude that the governor intended to give false or misleading testimony,” Theodore Wells, Paterson’s lawyer, said in a statement. “We are therefore hopeful that D.A. Soares will ultimately conclude that no criminal charges are warranted.”
Wells is a partner in the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
The report also said the back-dating of checks used to pay for the tickets doesn’t warrant criminal charges. The checks were written by Paterson’s aide, David Johnson, who declined to cooperate with the investigation, according to the report.
Paterson testified he intended to pay for tickets used by his son and son’s friend, and that he wrote and signed an $850 check for the seats, leaving the payee section blank. The governor said he gave the check to Johnson, who told him after the game it would be forwarded to the Yankees, the report said.
“Contrary to the governor’s testimony, he had not formed an intention prior to the game that the tickets other than his own would be paid for” and “he did not partially prepare and bring a check for $850 to the game,” the report said.
The question of whether Paterson intentionally gave false testimony “is clouded” because he didn’t examine the check given to the Yankees at a hearing of the Commission on Public Integrity, the report said.
“We are aware of the report issued by Judith Kaye this afternoon,” said Heather Orth, a spokeswoman for Soares, in an e-mail yesterday. “We will have no further comment until our review is completed.”
Earlier this month Johnson was charged with assaulting his girlfriend in 2009, three days after the World Series game Paterson attended. A previous report by Kaye found no evidence of witness tampering by Paterson, though he and his staff did speak with the alleged victim in that case.
Kaye took over an investigation into Paterson’s baseball tickets from state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for governor in November’s election. Paterson, 56, also a Democrat, abandoned his candidacy in February.
Paterson told investigators he attended the October game as part of his “official” duties and that he always intended to pay for tickets used by his son and his son’s friend.
In March, the ethics commission said Paterson violated a ban on gifts by soliciting and taking five free tickets from the Yankees to the first game of the World Series. If an administrative law judge agrees, Paterson could be fined as much as $110,000 on those charges.
The baseball club said in an e-mailed statement at the time that it cooperated with the commission and that it “relied on the legal opinion from the governor’s counsel” before releasing any tickets.
New York’s law, as interpreted by the ethics panel, bars public officials from accepting gifts worth more than a “cup of coffee” from any lobbyist and their clients.