ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Gov. David Paterson has suspended a close aide and is asking for an investigation by the attorney general after a published report linked the aide to a claim of domestic violence involving a former girlfriend.
Paterson on Wednesday said he was suspending David Johnson, who rose from volunteer to driver to confidant in more than a decade of working for the Democrat. Paterson also asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate a New York Times article's claims that state police may have pressured the woman to drop a criminal case against Johnson.
The Times cites court records and the woman's lawyer in describing a case of domestic violence and a possible effort by state officials to avoid a potential political embarrassment for the governor's office.
Paterson said the report raises serious questions that must be thoroughly investigated by Cuomo, who is widely believed to be considering a bid for the governor's office in November.
"Serious questions have been raised about contact the state police may have had with a private citizen who filed a complaint against a member of my staff," Paterson said in a statement released to The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "Any allegation of improper influence must be investigated thoroughly and completely."
Although the woman had pressed the case, it was dismissed after she missed a court date.
Paterson said he directed state police Superintendent Harry Corbitt, his appointee, to conduct a thorough internal investigation.
"Because of the seriousness of these allegations and the sensitive role of this staff member in my administration, I am asking the attorney general to investigate the matter to ensure in the public's mind that a comprehensive and independent inquiry has been conducted," Paterson stated. "Pending the outcome of the investigation, I am suspending David Johnson without pay."
The governor's office would not make Johnson, 37, available for comment Wednesday.
The Times reported that the woman had been contacted by a member of the governor's state police security detail even though she claimed the Halloween incident happened in the Bronx and state police had no jurisdiction there. But the newspaper stated details of the governor's involvement are unclear.
"We never pressured her, at least what I was advised; we never pressured her not to press charges," Corbitt was quoted by the newspaper. "We just gave her options."
Corbitt was asked by the Times if there were other visits by state police. He said, "I can't address any unofficial conversations because I have no way to."
The woman's lawyer, Lawrence B. Saftler, said Paterson called the woman in February and asked if he could help her, but the lawyer wouldn't say if the call prompted her to drop the case. The governor's office said the woman, not the governor, made the call.
Paterson became governor after former Gov. Eliot Spitzer quit amid a sex scandal. He formally announced his campaign for a full term on Saturday.