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N.Y. governor apologizes after prostitution link

Spitzer doesn’t directly cite allegation first reported by New York Times

  Spitzer allegation
March 10: New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer publicly apologized after being linked to a prostitution ring. NBC's Mike Taibbi and Dan Abrams report.
Spitzer linked to prostitution ring
Spitzer is prime comedy fodder
March 14: Leno, Letterman, Conan and the rest find the funny in the Eliot Spitzer prostitution ring story.

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NEW YORK - Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s political career teetered on the brink of collapse Monday after the corruption-fighting politician once known as “Mr. Clean” was accused of paying for sex with a high-priced call girl.

The scandal drew immediate calls for the Democrat to step down. At a news conference before about 100 reporters, a glassy-eyed Spitzer, his wife at his side, apologized to his family and the people of New York.

But he gave no details of what he was sorry for, did not discuss his political future and ignored shouted questions about whether he would resign.

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“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself,” said the 48-year-old father of three teenage girls. “I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

The New York Times was first to break the story, reporting that Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging Feb. 13 to meet at a Washington hotel room with a prostitute from a call-girl business known as the Emperors Club VIP.

Law enforcement officials told NBC News that Spitzer was identified as Client 9 in the records. Spitzer was in Washington on Feb. 13 to meet with congressional officials.

Spitzer not charged
Last week, federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed conspiracy charges against four people, accusing them of running the prostitution ring. Prosecutors said the defendants arranged connections between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris.

Spitzer has not been charged, and prosecutors did not comment on the case. The four defendants were charged with violating the federal Mann Act, a 1910 law that outlaws traveling across state lines for prostitution. Spitzer learned that he had been implicated when a federal official contacted his staff Friday, a person briefed on the case told The New York Times.

Spitzer called the issue “a private matter” in his comments Monday. He gave no details but said his conduct “violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong.”

Some immediately called for Spitzer to resign.

“He has to step down. No one will stand with him,” said Rep. Peter King, a Republican congressman from Long Island. “I never try to take advantage or gloat over a personal tragedy. However, this is different. This is a guy who is so self-righteous, and so unforgiving.”

James Tedisco, Republican leader of the State Assembly, said Spitzer “has disgraced his office and the entire state of New York. He should resign his office immediately.”

Democratic Assemblyman John McEneny said: “I don’t think anyone remembers anything like this. The fact that the governor has a reputation as a reformer and there is a certain assumption as attorney general that you’re Caesar’s wife. It’s a different element than if you were an accountant.”

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2½-hour meeting with prostitute alleged
In an affidavit obtained by NBC News, the FBI said a prostitute named Kristen was sent to Room 871 in an unidentified hotel where Client 9 was staying.

  Spitzer's apology

Below is the statement delivered by N.Y. Gov. Eliot Spitzer:

"Good afternoon.

"For the past nine years, eight years as attorney general, and one as governor, I have tried to uphold a vision of progressive politics that would rebuild New York and create opportunity for all. We sought to bring real change to New York and that will continue.

"Today I want to briefly address a private matter. I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.

"I do not believe that politics in the long run is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the state of New York. But I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.

"I will not be taking questions. Thank you very much. I will report back to you in short order. Thank you very much."

Client 9 asked to be reminded of what Kristen looked like and was told that she was an “American, petite, very pretty brunette, five feet five inches, and 105 pounds.”

The meeting apparently lasted from 9:36 p.m. ET, when Kristen arrived, until 12:02 a.m.

Kristen collected $4,300 from Client 9, according to the FBI affidavit. She said that the appointment went “very well” and that “she liked him and did not think he was difficult.”

The agent said she had been told the client “would ask you to do things that ... you might not think were safe ... very basic things,” according to the papers, but that Kristen responded by saying, “I have a way of dealing with that ... I’d be, like, listen dude, you really want the sex?”

When discussing how the payments would be arranged, Client 9 told the agent: “Yup, same as in the past, no question about it” — suggesting Client 9 had done this before.

The Web site of the Emperors Club VIP displays photographs of scantily clad women with their faces hidden, along with hourly rates depending on whether the prostitutes were rated with one diamond, the lowest ranking, or seven diamonds, the highest. The most highly ranked prostitutes cost $5,500 an hour, prosecutors said.

The case is being handled by prosecutors in the public corruption unit of U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia’s office. A spokeswoman for Garcia said the office had no comment.

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