N.Y. Gov. Paterson Slapped for 'Free' Yankees Tickets

David Paterson faces new ethics charge of violating state gift ban.

February 11, 2010, 5:45 PM

March 3, 2010— -- New York Gov. David Paterson, already under fire for his alleged involvement in a domestic violence case, faced charges today that he solicited free tickets to a Yankees World Series game for his son and a friend.

The New York State Public Integrity Commission formally filed the notice and asked State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate whether the governor's actions violated state ethics laws. Violation of the laws could cost the governor up to $90,000 in fines and possibly his job.

"The commission determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that Gov. Paterson solicited, received and accepted an unlawful gift; and falsely testified under oath that he had always intended to pay for the tickets," the commission said in a statement today.

There was no immediate comment from the governor's office.

Paterson, who said last week he would not run for election in November, convened a meeting of his cabinet in Albany today to discuss the state's $8 billion budget deficit.

Meanwhile, questions about his involvement in another potential ethics violation continued to swirl across the state.

The New York Times has reported that Paterson allegedly injected himself into a domestic violence complaint against close aide David Johnson to try to get it to "go away." Paterson has denied any wrongdoing.

"I would really like to tell my story," Paterson told WABC's Dave Evans this morning in Albany. "But when I read these accounts that are unsourced and inaccurate, it's obviously frustrating. But... when the truth comes out, I'm confident I'll be vindicated."

Last Halloween, Johnson's girlfriend, Sherr-una Booker, told police she was beaten and choked by Johnson and later obtained a temporary protection order against him. But Booker chose not to press charges, stirring speculation that she may have been pressured into her decision.

The Times reports that the governor's state police security detail visited with Booker, even though it did not have jurisdiction in the case.

"I have trouble with even calling the police because the state troopers kept calling and harassing me to drop the charges," Booker told a judge in court transcripts obtained by ABC News.

So far, two members of the Paterson administration have stepped down.

Late last month Paterson's public safety deputy secretary, Denise O'Donnell, resigned in protest after concluding that the governor's office and the state police had improperly contacted the woman who had filed the domestic abuse report against Johnson.

New York State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt abruptly announced his resignation effective today.

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has been eyeing the governorship, is now investigating the report at Paterson's request.

Questions About Paterson's Behavior, Ability to Lead

The appearance of impropriety by the governor has led several high-profile political figures in recent days to question his ability to lead.

"It is inappropriate for the governor to have any contact or to direct anyone to contact an alleged victim of violence," said Marcia Pappas, president of the state National Organization of Women chapter, in a statement Tuesday. "It's now time for the governor to step down."

N.Y. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the charges against the man who appointed her to her current job "extremely serious," saying "at the end of the day, if all the allegations of the abuse of power are true, then the governor will be unable to govern, and he will have to step down."

A Republican member of New York's congressional delegation, Rep. Rick Lazio, said on ABC News' "Top Line" Tuesday that Paterson must clarify what his role was in the alleged incident or resign.

"I don't know if these allegations can be proven and will be proven, but if they are established and if they are proven, I think David Paterson is unable to continue to govern this state and he needs to step down," Lazio said.

Paterson spent most of Tuesday holed up in his mansion in Albany, N.Y., meeting with several state Democratic Party leaders.

State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver emerged to tell reporters, "I do not feel that he should resign."

Jay Jacobs, state Democratic chairman, said Paterson's explanation quelled his concerns during their meeting. "I did not get the sense that the governor is considering resignation, that resignation is pending," he said.

Paterson, the former lieutenant governor who became governor in 2008 after Eliot Spitzer's resignation, is scheduled to meet with his Cabinet today.

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