After Allegedly Interfering in a Domestic Violence Dispute, Should Gov. David Paterson Resign?

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New York Governor David Paterson yesterday defied mounting calls for his resignation amid fresh revelations from the New York Times about the efforts he reportedly made to get a woman to drop domestic violence charges against one of his close aides. However, his state police commissioner, Harry Corbitt, will step down because of his role in the scandal, according to a March 2 report from the Huffington Post. 

A March 1 New York Times story reported that Paterson directed his press secretary and a another state worker to call the woman as she was trying to get an order of protection against the aide, David Johnson. Paterson also spoke to the woman, according to the story. A Feb. 26 Times story revealed an allegation that members of his state police detail contact her. Paterson also is accused of telling his press secretary to characterize the October 31 incident that precipitated the charges as a nonviolent argument between lovers who were breaking up.

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 After speaking with the Governor on Feb. 7, the woman failed to show up for a Feb. 8 hearing on the order of protections, and charges were dropped.

The New York Times also reported that the same state worker helped Johnson avoid charges in an earlier alleged domestic violence incident in 2001. In that incident, Johnson allegedly assaulted a girlfriend with whom he was arguing on the sidewalk outside of Paterson's state senate office. The alleged victim did not file a police report. 

In light of these revelations, the New York State National Organization for Women issued a March 2 statement asking Paterson to step down:

NOW-NYS (National Organization For Women) President Marcia Pappas commented: "It is inappropriate for the Governor to have any contact or to direct anyone to contact an alleged victim of violence. This latest news is very disappointing for those of us who believed the Governor was a strong advocate for women's equality and for ending violence against women."

Pappas concluded: "We at the National Organization for Women-New York State believe that, in spite of the Governor's heretofore excellent record on women's issues, it is now time for the Governor to step down.

The mounting scandal has already prompted Paterson to withdraw his bid to be elected governor in his own right. He has denied wrongdoing, saying that he only returned a call from Johnson's ex-girlfriend to express concern for her well-being. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating. Johnson has been suspended. Cuomo, the son of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, former Clinton cabinet official, and former Kennedy in-law, has often been mentioned as a viable Democratic candidate for governor. Last summer, Paterson rejected White House requests that he step aside, apparently to clear the way for Cuomo. 

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite expects Paterson to be forced out of office. The Times says he should resign if the allegations turn out to be true. Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair calls it the latest misstep in Paterson's "tragically inept" reign as governor. Politico's Ben Smith said lawyers told him that Paterson might have broken the state's witness tampering laws.

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This March 17 will mark the second anniversary of Paterson's swearing-in as governor after his predecessor, former crime-fighter Eliot Spitzer, resigned in disgrace after his dalliances with prostitutes came to light. Paterson, who now stands accused of interfering with the enforcement of domestic violence laws, touts his signing of a law strengthening protections for domestic violence victims as one of his administration's signature accomplishments:

"Omnibus domestic violence legislation was proposed and signed into law by Governor Paterson. The new law strengthens a 1996 law that established domestic violence as a factor the courts must consider in child custody and visitation proceedings, establishes certain sex crimes as “family offenses,” allows evidence to be heard in order of protection proceedings in family court and ensures that mandatory arrest apply to these domestic violence offenses." 

It's almost hard to remember the excitement with which Paterspn's elevation to the governor's office was greeted in some quarters. Alyssa Rose expressed that excitement in this March, 2008 post for Blogher:

"A black, legally disabled supporter of gay rights is running one of the most powerful and important states in the country, if not the world. This seems like progress, even if we were dragged forth on our hands and knees.

A state Democratic leader who met with Paterson yesterday in Albany told the New York Times that calls for Paterson's resignation are premature, adding that he had urged the governor to "make his case and get his side [of the story] out there."  I'm certainly interested in hearing what Paterson has to say, because to say the least, this entire affair is pretty sordid. How do you feel about the Paterson scandal -- especially if you are a New York voter?

Kim
BlogHer Contributing Editor|KimPearson.net|

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