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Scandal deepens for N.Y. Gov. David Paterson

March 3, 2010 |  3:50 pm

Democrat New York Governor David Paterson

A New York state ethics panel has accused Gov. David Paterson of lying under oath and of improperly taking Yankee baseball tickets, the latest scandal for the official who was forced to give up his chance to seek a full term this year.

The accusation, which could cost the Democratic governor about $100,000 in penalties, was also referred to Albany prosecutors, who could bring criminal charges against Paterson, fighting to stay in office after earlier allegations that he intervened with state police in a domestic violence case involving a top aide.

Paterson, a lieutenant governor who took the top office after his predecessor, fellow Democrat Eliot Spitzer, was forced to resign in a prostitution scandal two years ago, has insisted he will complete his term.

But pressure from fellow Democrats has been building for Paterson to step aside now. He has already given up a November race for his first full term because of the lack of support.

The latest charges come from the state Commission on Public Integrity, which....

...accused Paterson of violating the ban on gifts in the state’s ethics law when he secured free tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series from the Yankees.

According to the commission, Paterson is accused of accepting the tickets for himself, his son and a friend and falsely testifying that he intended to pay for them. The commission found that Paterson paid for the tickets with a backdated check after reporters questioned his appearance.

“There is reasonable cause to believe that the governor did not intend -- before the game -- to reimburse the Yankees for the cost of the tickets for his son and his son’s friend,” according to the commission.

The findings were turned over to the Albany County district attorney and state Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo, considered the likely Democratic candidate to replace Paterson. Cuomo’s office is also investigating the governor’s role in the domestic dispute involving his aide.

Paterson is charged with violating two subsections of the Public Officers Law, each of which carries a maximum penalty of $40,000. He could be fined an additional $10,000 for three violations of the state Code of Ethics.

Meanwhile, a poll shows many New Yorkers don’t want Paterson to quit and don’t want Democratic party rival Cuomo to investigate the scandal. A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found that 61% of voters oppose Paterson's resignation. Sixty-one percent of voters prefer an investigation by an independent prosecutor rather than Cuomo.

-- Michael Muskal

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Photo: Associated Press.    This item also appeared on DC Now.