New York Gov. David Paterson will not face criminal charges for calling a woman who later dropped domestic violence charges against a top aide, though the aide could still face prosecution, according to an investigative report issued Wednesday.
Retired Judge Judith Kaye, tasked by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo with examining Paterson's role in the assault case, said the Democratic governor's actions did not constitute witness tampering.
However, she criticized him for failing to inquire about what actually happened that night beyond the account of his friend and aide David Johnson, and she wrote that he also didn't try to confirm a report that an order of protection was issued.
After the confrontation between Johnson and his then-girlfriend Sherr-una Booker on Oct. 31 in the Bronx, Paterson called Booker and endorsed a press statement that said the incident was not violent.
"It is hard to reconcile this conduct with the governor's expressed commitment to the cause of domestic violence prevention," Kaye wrote. Her investigation found no interference by State Police, including a trooper who contacted the woman, into the criminal investigation by New York City police.
Booker filed a police report saying Johnson choked her, threw her against a mirror and tried to rip her Halloween costume off. After the Paterson call, she did not show up for court, and the complaint was dropped.
"The evidence reviewed warrants consideration of possible charges against David Johnson relating to the Oct. 31 domestic incident," Kaye wrote.
The Bronx district attorney's office investigation has continued, spokesman Steven Reed said.
Even with the announcement that no charges will be pursued against Paterson, the political damage has been done. Buffeted by other ethics questions about World Series tickets, Paterson soon dropped plans to run for a full term this fall, while saying he intended to finish the year in office. His attorney, Theodore Wells Jr., has denied any wrongdoing by the governor.
Kaye and the state Public Integrity Commission are still looking into whether Paterson illegally obtained the tickets, then lied about it. The commission has a hearing scheduled Aug. 17.
Officials disclosed that Paterson, members of his State Police security detail, and other administration employees spoke to Booker shortly before she was supposed to appear in court for a hearing in the domestic violence case Feb. 8.
The governor confirmed that he spoke to Booker on the telephone the day before the hearing but denied trying to talk her out of pressing charges. He said he just wanted to see how she was doing. Both told Kaye the conversation focused on rumors then circulating about Paterson and press attempts to contact Booker.
The New York Times later quoted unidentified sources as saying that the governor had personally directed two state employees to contact Booker and that he tried to get her to change her story and describe the incident as nonviolent.
Calls to Wells and Paterson were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Oscar Michelen, Johnson's lawyer, has said his client was never arrested or charged, remained suspended without pay and looks forward to Kaye's report so he can move on.
He has said New York City police arrived at Booker's home Halloween night and "made a determination there was no evidence a crime had been committed."
Cuomo appointed Kaye to Paterson's case after critics pointed out a potential conflict of interest because he is also running for governor. Cuomo acknowledged a legitimate argument early in the investigation, before Paterson dropped out of the race.