Black leaders to meet on Paterson fate

Source says Rev. Sharpton is convening a group of prominent black Democrats who may urge Paterson to resign

Published March 4, 2010 2:06PM (EST)

A Democratic adviser tells The Associated Press that the Rev. Al Sharpton is convening a group of black Democratic leaders who could urge Gov. David Paterson to resign.

The meeting is set for Thursday night and follows a flurry of calls overnight in which many of the leaders reconsidered their support for Paterson. Those calls were also voiced in a similar summit Saturday in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood.

The adviser spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The adviser says Sharpton is expected to say he's rethinking his support for New York's first black governor. Paterson is snared in two scandals that threaten his job.

He is being investigated over contact with a woman who had accused a top aide of domestic violence. He also faces ethics charges over taking free Yankees tickets.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Already enveloped in a scandal that has raised unanswered questions about his conduct and brought calls for his resignation, New York Gov. David Paterson faces new charges of violating state ethics laws, a case that a political analyst says could be even more politically dangerous.

Paterson was accused Wednesday of breaking ethics laws when he sought and obtained free Yankees tickets for the 2009 World Series and then may have lied about his intention to pay for them, according to a state report.

He faces penalties of nearly $100,000, and the case was referred to the Albany County prosecutor's office and the state attorney general for possible criminal investigation into whether Paterson or anyone else gave false answers to questions by the Public Integrity Commission or backdated a check to pay for the tickets.

The damage was mounting in the wake of the scandal plaguing Paterson over contact he and others in his administration had with a woman who accused a top Paterson aide of domestic violence.

"The drum beat is awfully loud right now and not getting quieter," said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll. He noted that the Yankees tickets case is clearer, and therefore potentially more of a threat to Paterson's job.

The ethics charge isn't directly related to the scandal over the aide. But the panel said the aide, David Johnson, was one of Paterson's four guests, along with Paterson's son and a son's friend, getting tickets for the Oct. 28 World Series game provided by the Yankees.

Four days later, also in the Bronx, Johnson was accused of domestic violence by his then-girlfriend, a case that now threatens Paterson's job and administration.

But the ticket scandal may ultimately be more damaging to the governor, especially given the timing.

"I, at all times, upheld the oath of my office and never at any point attempted to influence or coerce anyone to do anything they didn't want to do," Paterson told reporters Wednesday, saying he intends to fight the ethics charge.

Paterson told investigators that he always intended to pay the $850 for tickets for his son and the son's friend. They were paid for with a postdated check, and the governor paid for them only when confronted by a reporter for The New York Post, the report said.

In the other case, the office of state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether Paterson or anyone from his staff or security detail influenced the woman's decision not to press charges after she told police that Johnson roughed her up.

"My side of the story will not be unsourced, it will not be in inaccurate, it will be the truth," Paterson said Wednesday, taking a swipe at some media reports.

He said he "couldn't be more moved" by a poll this week that showed most New Yorkers wanted him to continue his term, despite the scandal. "I'm glad to see people understand there are different sides of the story."

On Thursday, an organization of black police officers stepped up to show its support for Paterson. The group, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, urged an end to what it called a "rush to judgment."

The governor's chief of staff, Lawrence Schwartz, said Paterson was meeting with legislative leaders and staff Wednesday and that the fiscal crisis is Paterson's top priority. Paterson has no public events scheduled for Thursday.

"The governor is the governor," Schwartz said. "He's in charge."


Associated Press writers Colleen Long in New York and Valerie Bauman in Albany contributed to this report.


By Michael Gormley

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