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Paterson Tampering with Witness? Oh, please!

New York Governor, David Paterson, just announced that he will not run in the upcoming New York gubernatorial election which will be held on Tuesday, November 2, 2010.  This is a far cry from the governor’s vehement vow to seek election made just a few days ago.

Paterson, who was elected as Lieutenant Governor in 2006, became governor when former Governor, Eliot Spitzer, resigned in March, 2008 in the midst of a prostitution scandal.

Paterson is 1 of only 4 Blacks who have served as state governors in the US.  They are:

  • Governor P.B.S. Pinchback (R) of Louisiana (son of a biracial former slave and a White man), who served for 35 days from 1872 to 1873.
  • Governor Douglas Wilder (D) of Virginia.  He served from 1990 – 1994
  • Governor Deval Patrick (D) of Massachusetts. Serving from 2007 to the present
  • Governor David Patterson (D) of New York.  Serving from 2008 to the present

Of the 4 Black governors, only 2 were elected, Wilder and Patrick.  The other 2, Pinchback and Paterson were serving as lieutenant governors and were propelled to the top state office when the incumbent governors they were serving under were forced from office.

In a press conference on February 9, 2010, the Governor was resolute in his declaration that he would not quit as governor, and he would also seek election.   “Let me let you know this: The only way I’m not going to be Governor next year is at the ballot box, and the only way I’ll be leaving office before is in a box,” Paterson told reporters.

However, it seems as thought the embattled Governor has had enough.  First there were the reports that President Obama asked him not to run.  Then there were the numerous scandals which plagued his office.  Just a few days ago, on Larry King Live, the governor defended himself against what he called scurrilous rumors of his illegal drug use and infidelity which sources said would be published in a highly-anticipated New York Times story.

When the NY Times story broke, most believed that the governor had dodged a bullet because it did not tell a tale of illicit drug use by the governor (as was originally leaked).  However, the story revealed allegations which some say was the last straw for the beleaguered governor – allegations that the governor was involved in an effort to intimidate a Bronx woman who reported that she was assaulted by the Governor’s aide, David Johnson.

Although some say this is what caused the governor to end his campaign, it is difficult to believe because the allegations in this story do not justify such a drastic measure.  How serious was this incident and the governor’s alleged involvement?  You be the judge.

The New York Times reports that the alleged assault happened shortly before 8 p.m. on Halloween in the apartment the victim shared with Mr. Johnson and her 13-year-old son for about four years.  The woman told the police that Johnson, who is 6-foot-7, had choked her, stripped her of much of her clothing, smashed her against a mirrored dresser and took two telephones from her to prevent her from calling for help.

First, Johnson was never arrested for this incident, and therefore, there is and was no criminal case.  The Times reports that the woman instead went to Family Court to get a Temporary Order of Protection (TOP).  She was twice granted TOPs, but she never served Johnson because “he avoided it” she told Family court Judge, Andrea Masley on November 4, 2009.

I agree that serving TOPs is sometimes difficult.  But how difficult could it be when the person to be served works in a high profile job as top aid to the Governor of New York State?  Why didn’t this woman hire a professional process server to serve the TOP?  Johnson’s schedule is not a secret.  In addition, even if that didn’t work, the Family Court Judge who heard the matter could have ordered Johnson to appear in court to accept service, or order his attorney to accept service on his behalf.  That was never done.

The case was adjourned, and on December 17, the Judge asked the woman if she wanted to proceed.  The woman said yes and the Judge ordered a new summons to be issued, and set a new court date for February 8.  On that day, the woman did not appear and the case was dismissed “without prejudice”.  When a case is dismissed without prejudice the case could be re-filed in the future.  This also was never done.

The Governor’s involvement in this case stems from allegations that he tampered with the witness because it he spoke to the woman on February 7, the day before she abandoned her case.

Concerning the allegations of witness tampering, first, the woman in this case is the victim and not a witness.  Therefore, it cannot be said that the Governor tampered with a witness. (There are different laws for intimidating a victim but those involve allegations of physical injury or threats of physical injury – which is not the case here). Also, New York Penal Law states that witness tampering in the 4 degree occurs when a person who knows that another person is going to be called as a witness in an action or proceeding, wrongfully induces or attempts to induce such person to absent him/herself from appearing or testifying at such action or proceeding.  In this case, it is alleged that the governor spoke to the woman on February 7.  At that time, there was no proceeding or action because the old summons was effectively null and void.  A new summons was to have been issued.  Also, it’s questionable whether going to Family Court to get a TOP could be construed to be the same as “being called as a witness in an action or proceeding.”

However, in spite of the apparent weakness of the claims concerning the Governor’s culpability in the Johnson case, the Governor decided to walk away.  Maybe he gave an indication of the real reason in his press conference today when he mentioned the many disparaging and malicious accusations which were made against himself, his wife, Michelle, and his family.  I wrote a post about an incident involving Paterson’s 15 year old son who was dragged into a police precinct after school one day. (There is a link to that post at the end of this article).

The Governor graciously ignored questions from reporters today who asked him if he was upset and if he felt that he was targeted in a smear campaign.  The Governor responded by saying that this is politics, and he knew that when he signed up for it.  “I fought a good fight, I did what was hard, and I put the people first” the Governor said.

As a side note – if the reports about the incident involving Johnson on Halloween night are true, this writer hopes that the victim will do all that is within her power to make sure that he is prosecuted for this vicious assault.

Related posts:

Detention of Paterson’s son may backfire

http://wendygdphillips.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/detention-of-patersons-son-may-backfire/

Karla, your lies couldn’t save Hiram’s job

http://wendygdphillips.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/karla-your-lies-couldn%E2%80%99t-save-hiram%E2%80%99s-job/

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4 Responses

  1. Seems, like the news agencies need a lawyer. You just keep setting the record straight. Tampering with a witness….

  2. Albeit the case cannot be made for “tampering with a witness,” there is surely a major indiscretion in calling a domestice abuse victim regarding a case against your employee as a top elected official. Paterson should know this. The State Police should know better. There is a law which mandates that one person (unfortunately, usually the male) be removed from the domicile in a report of domestic violence. The police never made it to the apartment to arrest too-tall Johnson. Why? Because homeboy grabbed her only means of communication with a law enforcement agency. Pulling out phones is an act of domestic violence.
    I appreciate your knowledge of law and history, but I see no connection to our ugly racist history and this case. Yes, they were digging for mud to throw and they found it. The result: first black Governor disgraced; black superintendent of state troopers resigns. This is our present history. Maybe they should have learned from the past so we can be proud in the future.

  3. Patterson should have known that his actions would and could be used against him no matter how inocent he thought they might be. It is a fact that african american leaders will be held to a different standard. Given the political climate he should have been more careful. Patterson should imploy a professional PR specialist wait for his term to end and then reemerge on the politcal scene much as Spitzer is doing now. It may be a slow road back but it is possible.

  4. [...] Filed under: Current Events, Politics, Social Issues | Tagged: Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, Charles Rangel « Paterson Tampering with Witness? Oh, please! [...]

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