Paterson's Fine for Yankees Tix 'Political Retribution': Lawyer

Commission rules governor provided false testimony, which proved he knew his conduct was illegal

Tuesday, Dec 21, 2010  |  Updated 10:41 AM EDT
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Gov. David Paterson's testimony about his plans to pay for World Series tickets last year was "inaccurate and misleading" and warrants consideration of criminal charges by a prosecutor, a special investigation into the matter has concluded.

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Gov. David Paterson has been fined $62,125 for soliciting and accepting Yankees tickets for the opening game of the World Series last year.

A commission looking into the gift ruled Monday that Paterson had not told the truth when he said he had intended to pay for the tickets. "The Governor’s false testimony is . . . evidence that he knew his conduct was unlawful and, thus, is one factor underlying the Commission’s determination that the Governor violated Public Officers Law," the ruling said.

Paterson's lawyer fired back, saying the commission was in the wrong.

“The Public Integrity Commission’s decision to impose a punitive fine for alleged perjury when its own hearing officer did not find that the Governor gave false testimony is outrageous," Theodore Wells said.

"In issuing its decision, and rejecting the significantly lower fine of $10,000 recommended by its hearing officer, the Commission has wildly misrepresented the facts, exceeded its legal authority, and generally confirmed what has long been obvious: that these proceedings were always about the PIC's political witch hunt and never about  truth or justice," he said.

Paterson, who rose to office in 2008 when Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a prostitution scandal, was never charged with a crime though. Former prosecutors say perjury is a notoriously difficult charge to prove, if it's pursued at all.

In a report last summer, former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye noted four of five of Paterson's tickets to the World Series opening game between the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies were paid for shortly afterward, following a press inquiry from the New York Post newspaper.

Kaye said there's a question whether the Democratic governor gave "intentionally false testimony" to the state Commission on Public Integrity about having written an $850 check in advance for two tickets.

Paterson's private attorney, Theodore Wells Jr., said Paterson didn't lie, and he noted Kaye's report doesn't recommend bringing charges or conclude Paterson intended to give false testimony.

"We are therefore hopeful that (Albany County District Attorney David) Soares will ultimately conclude that no criminal charges are warranted," he said.

Paterson eventually paid for the tickets, but the question is if he had always planned to and if testimony about the tickets was truthful.

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