Paterson Intervenes in Domestic Violence Case

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Update: I stand by  my comment about how serious the issues are if the story’s implications are correct, but the NYTPicker does a good job of pointing out some of the questions marks left open by the story and the changes that were made between web and print editions. Hat tip to Andrew.

The New York Times is reporting that last fall a woman who had repeatedly pressed her case of domestic violence involving David Johnson, an aide to the governor, backed down after a call from Paterson.

The unidentified woman claims Johnson violently assaulted her. She went to court three times seeking protection from him. She twice complained that the State Police harassed her and that they had demanded she drop the case. Paterson then called her, or she called Paterson, depending on whose account you believe, and the day following that conversation she failed to show up for a hearing and the Court dismissed the case. Her lawyer admits the case was never mentioned directly in her phone call with the Governor, although I am not sure why that matters. The Governor offered his “assistance” or whatever in a case involving one of his closest aides; I am sure she got the message.

Just to be clear on the assault, the woman reportedly told police Johnson “choked her, stripped her of much of her clothing, smashed her against a mirrored dresser and [took] two telephones from her to prevent her from calling for help.”

Yesterday, Paterson suspended Johnson without pay and asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate whether state police tried to “improperly influence” the woman, according to the Daily News.

This seems like the most serious charge that the Times has been able to levy against Paterson. As Chas wrote earlier, the Times ran two articles on Paterson last week, one on Johnson’s quick rise to power and the second on Paterson’s relative inability to govern. This final story, though, ties it all together in a tragic way. The aide that has risen so quickly was likely “brutally assaulting” his girlfriend, and then the Governor and his State Police intervened to intimidate the woman.

Ben Smith, of the The Politico, speculates that the case “appears likely to end the governor’s tottering political career.” If the Governor had just had his staff intervene in a domestic violence dispute then that would be enough for me to think he should resign; however, he went even beyond that, he called the woman himself to intimate her. In fact, resignation might not be enough, as the actions might constitute criminal intimidation of a witness. Paterson seems to agree with me, as the Times points out:

Mr. Paterson, who has championed the cause of battered women, [] made extended remarks on the case of Hiram Monserrate, the former state senator who was convicted of misdemeanor assault against his companion and ousted from the Legislature. Mr. Paterson said he was offended that while the woman had been granted an order of protection against Mr. Monserrate, the senator’s aides had continued to have contact with her and assist her.

“The order of protection is designed to allow for independence of the victim,” he said. “This victim apparently had no independence.”

He said the conduct of the aides warranted a criminal investigation, perhaps for witness intimidation.

The State Senate did the right thing when they tossed out Monserrate. Domestic violence is not a trivial problem—it deserves punishment. Intimidation is the tool used to prevent women from seeking the rights they should have. If the story is true, he likely should be prosecuted. I am not sure if that will happen, but I suggest reading the Times article in full so you can see how awful the accusations are, and then ask yourself whether Paterson should really be our governor until January 1. If this article is true, if Paterson as well as his State Police protection intimated a victim of domestic violence, I think impeachment needs to be used in this situation if he will not resign. I do not want to see it have to become political like that but it seems that at worst he conspired to intimate an assaulted woman for an aide of his and at best he just intimated her himself.