Another Hapless Cover-up Gets Governor Paterson in More Legal Trouble


A few months ago, long before the Times "bombshells" exploded, Governor Paterson received five free tickets to a World Series game at Yankee Stadium, courtesy of the Yankees. When pressed by the Post, Paterson said he went to the game in an official capacity — even though his son and his son's friend also received free tickets, and even though Paterson didn't do anything remotely official in nature at the game. After some more obfuscating and backpedaling, Paterson finally decided to just pay the Yankees back. Well, that's not good enough for the Public Integrity Commission, which today charged Paterson with violating state ethics laws. But that's not all. According to its report:

"The Commission determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that Governor Paterson solicited, received and accepted an unlawful gift; and falsely testified under oath that he had always intended to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend when, in fact, the Governor’s intention was to receive and accept the tickets without paying for them until a press inquiry caused him to submit a backdated check as payment for the tickets."

In other words, instead of taking the heat for receiving some free Yankees tickets — which Paterson mistakenly thought was okay because he's the governor, and probably wouldn't even have been that big of a deal — Paterson did what he does worst: went into cover-up mode. He said under oath that he always intended to pay for the tickets, and that he personally wrote a check before the game — two claims easily disproven by contemporaneous evidence gathered by the Commission. In fact, he didn't even write the check.

A review of the handwriting on the Governor’s check reveals that only one person completed the entire check. Similarly, the handwriting on the check that Johnson forwarded to the Yankees as payment for his ticket to Game One reveals that the same person who wrote and signed the Governor’s check also wrote and signed Johnson’s check. To this end, the Commission searched its own records to determine whether it was in possession of any documents submitted by the Governor or Johnson that contained their respective handwriting or signatures.

The Commission has within its custody and control the Governor’s “release of annual statement(s) of financial disclosure to the employee” (CPI 9), which contains the Governor’s signature; Johnson’s 2005 handwritten financial disclosure form (CPI 6, 7, & 8); and a 2007 check submitted by Johnson to the Commission (CPI 5). A comparison of the handwriting and signatures on these documents with the handwriting and signature on the Governor’s check supports reasonable cause to believe that the Governor did not write the check sent to the Yankees.

Oh, the "Johnson" in there is David Johnson, who also attended the game. He either forged Paterson's check and was complicit in the cover-up, or someone else forged both Paterson's and Johnson's check; it's unclear. Either way, what a good-luck charm that guy is.

The matter has been referred to the Albany County D.A. and to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office is increasingly becoming devoted primarily to investigating the transgressions of the governor of the state.

Public integrity commission charges Paterson over Yankee tickets [NYP]
Gov Slapped With Ethics Charge » [Daily Politics/NYDN]