Charges Swirl in Paterson Probe

By Alice McQuillan and Jonathan Dienst
|  Thursday, Mar 18, 2010  |  Updated 8:08 AM EDT
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New York Gov. David Paterson, left, and former aide David Johnson.

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Charges continued to fly Wednesday over the ethics investigation into free World Series tickets used by embattled Governor David Paterson.

The lawyer for Paterson's former right hand man objected to the New York State Commission on Public Integrity saying that his client had ignored a subpoena to testify about his role in getting those Yankees tickets.

And Paterson's lawyer blasted as "half-baked" and "a rush to judgment" the commission's March 3rd report that the governor violated state ethics laws by accepting the tickets and lying about how he would pay for them.

Former Paterson aide David Johnson "was ready willing and able to testify" and didn't know that a document handed to him in a sealed envelope was a subpoena -- and neither did the person giving it to him -- attorney Oscar Michelen wrote to the commission.

The watchdog agency defended itself saying, "the subpoena was served in accordance with the law," according to spokesman Walter Ayres.

In Paterson's  first spirited attack on the commission's findings, his attorney, Theodore Wells, released emails suggesting that the governor's staff believed that Yankees brass had invited him to be their guest at the World Series.

He said the commission "completely ignored" those emails, adding that "a rush to judgment led to a half-baked report released prematurely and in the middle of a political firestorm."

Wells released an October 8th email from Paterson staffer Kathleen Whittemore referencing an invitation from Yankees executive Lonn Trost:  "When I asked him if he was following up on an invitation, he awkwardly laughed and said he wasn't sure if anything was ever sent, but he wanted to check if the governor would be interested in attending and if he was, he would make the arrangements."

Wells also blasted the commission for rushing their report without getting Johnson's testimony, even though Paterson had testified that he had given the aide a check to pay for two of the tickets in question.

"The entire process was flawed," Wells wrote. "It is not surprising that it led to the wrong result."

Ayres said that Wells' letter "does not contest the Commission's determination that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the Governor violated the gift ban and did not testify truthfully."

And Ayres said the emails refer to American League playoff tickets -- not the Worlds Series.

However Wells notes that an October 8th email between staffers stated, "The Governor was not planning on attending any games in the first post-season series, but he would 'definitely attend when they're in the next series.'"

Of course Johnson is also involved with other problems for Paterson. The aide's alleged fight with his girlfriend last Halloween launched a separate and ongoing criminal probe of the governor for contacting the injured woman, who then dropped her domestic violence case against Johnson.

Paterson denies any wrongdoing and insists he will be cleared -- but did bow out of running for re-election.

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