New York Gov. David Paterson showed bad judgement but didn't break the law, a report finds. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Gov. David Paterson showed bad judgment but did not break the law when he contacted an alleged domestic violence victim, according to a new report released today by the Attorney General's office.
The report by special counsel Judge Judith Kaye suggests that the Bronx District attorney should move forward with a criminal investigation of David Johnson for the alleged domestic violence incident.
"The evidence reviewed warrants consideration of possible charges against David Johnson relating to the Oct. 31 incident," Judge Kaye said. But, she adds, no other criminal charges should be filed against others connected to this case.
It was last Halloween night when Johnson allegedly beat and choked Booker. Questions have swirled if Gov. Paterson, Johnson and state police officials engaged in actions to try to silence her. Johnson denies any wrongdoing. The Governor admits he called Booker but has denied it was an attempt to silence her her. He told investigators such allegations were "bogus."
Booker herself told investigators she did not believe the Governor was trying to scare her. According to the report, Booker told investigators she decided not to pursue the family court case because Johnson was no longer contacting her and she did not consider him a "threat."
At his New York City office, Paterson declined to comment saying he had not yet had a chance to read the findings.
The 55-page report out provides a detail timeline of events.
Booker called 9-1-1 three times after the alleged assault. In the third call, she told the 9-1-1 operator that she was scared and feared Johnson might return to "finish the job." The NYPD patrol car was delayed in responding because it had to cover a car accident and a landlord-tenant dispute at the same time.
When officers arrived, they said the did not see any injuries, classified the incident as a 'harassment' violation and advised Booker to pursue the matter in family court. The NYPD report later erroneously stated Booker's complaint had been "unfounded" after a wrong code for the complaint was entered into the computer. Booker then went to Lincoln Hospital for treatment and to meet with a social worker on how to handle a domestic violence incident.
The report states that after Booker called 9-1-1, Johnson reached out to NY State Police Major Charles Day to tell him about the incident. Day worked on the Governor's security detail.
Day told investigators he then checked with his boss, First Superintendent Pedro Perez, to call Booker directly in order to assess Booker needed any help. Perez also claimed he wanted to know if Booker was a 'threat' to the Governor in that she might seek to "retaliate" against Johnson when he was with the Governor. Perez would later resign.
When Major Day called Booker, she said she was very upset. Booker claims Major Day then urged her not to file charges against Johnson. "Booker testified that, because she believed Day worked for Johnson, she suspected that Day was attempting to interfere with her efforts to obtain assistance from the NYPD," the report said.
Major Day denies Booker's claims. Judge Kaye accused Day of not being candid with investigators at first and then clarifying his story in a later interview.
Booker, 41, went public for the first time last week, saying that she wants to pursue criminal charges against Johnson. She met for several hours last week with domestic violence prosecutors at the Bronx District Attorney's office. Bronx DA Robert Johnson said he is investigating her claims, but hadn't yet decided whether to file criminal charges, according to his spokesman.
Booker, a single mother of two sons, said that she was inspired to go public tell her story due to other women she met who had suffered domestic violence, particularly a co-worker who stayed with a man who had broken her arm.
"She didn't speak out for years," said Booker. "And it kind of gave me the courage to come forth and speak for other women that maybe didn't feel that they would be heard, or weren't important enough to speak up. It's the right thing to do. I don't want any woman to go through what I went through."
The special report also details contact with Booker by a friend Deneane Brown who at times served as a go between for officials in the Governor's office and Booker. Governor aide Clemmie Harris also tried to contact Booker through Brown to try to find out about the case to help protect the Governor, the report said.
According to the report, Booker says on November 3, Major Day tried to call her but a friend answered the phone: When he was told Booker planned to continue to move forward with the case, Day reportedly became "aggressive and rude." But Day denies those claims.
As for Paterson, he first learned of the domestic dispute on Nov. 1, when Johnson allegedly told him he had a "huge fight" with Booker. But the Governor said he was unaware there was any 'physical dimension' to the dispute, the report said.
"I got the impression that this was a loud, emotional exchange, and that the police had been called," Paterson later told investigators.
The New York Times would break the domestic-abuse story on February 17. Paterson and Booker spoke by phone again that day for 40 minutes. Paterson told her the story was going to 'blow over.' She said she told Paterson she was upset because the incident was more than a 'bad break up' and she told him for the first time the details of the alleged assault.
Paterson apologized to her in that call, saying he was unaware of the alleged violence, the report said. But the Governor's office then put out a statement that "There is no independent evidence presented that would substantiate any claims of violence."
On February 24, with the Times set to run another story, Governor Paterson called Booker several times, at one point speaking for 20 minutes, according tot he report. Booker alleged she thought the NYPD had been slow in responding to her 9-1-1 calls because she suspected the State Police had stepped in.
The Governor again called Booker and left her a message about the Times reporting. "You should see the way they wrote this story. They're trying to make it look like I pressured you into dropping this court case. Please help me," Paterson said. "Your lawyer, his statement, makes it sound the same way."
Paterson went on: "I hope, uh - you remember that I was not trying to make you do anything, and - I hope your lawyer will do something to help me here because this, uh, doesn't look good for me, and I wasn't in this."
In the final assessment, Judge Kaye's report found "no evidence" that Governor Paterson committed witness tampering, but he did "rely too heavily" on Johnson's story alone.
The report stated that Day may have violated State Police protocols in researching certain records, but he had a right to "make appropriate inquiries" with the NYPD to ensure that any arrest of Johnson would not cause any security issue with the governor.
Booker's attorney Ken Thompson said Booker always told the truth and looks forward to the Bronx District attorney's decision on charges. Johnson's attorney Oscar Michelen said the report vindicates his client's claim that no one unduly influenced Booker's decision to drop her effort to get an order of protection. Ted Wells, the lawyer for Governor Paterson, is out of town and could not be reached.'