Last night, The New York Times broke a story saying Gov. David Paterson apparently ordered two aides to call the woman who accused Paterson's aide, David Johnson, of assaulting her. Paterson asked his press secretary to call Johnson's accuser shortly before she was due in court to complete her request for an order of protection against Johnson. The call, they report, was made to encourage the woman to describe the attack as "non-violent," but the press secretary -- who says neither she nor the governor knew the extent of the charges when she made the call -- didn't get through.
Paterson also asked Deneane Brown, who The Times describes as "a friend of the governor and the accuser," to call the woman before her court date. Brown, who works for the Division of Housing and Community Renewal, was the one who eventually arranged the phone call between the governor and Johnson's accuser. The New York Times:
After the calls from Ms. Brown and the conversation with the governor, the woman failed to appear for the court hearing on Feb. 8, and the case was dropped.
These accounts provide the first evidence that Mr. Paterson helped direct an effort to influence the accuser.
Deneane Brown was featured in the original story about Johnson's history of violence. In that piece, which she was contacted for at the urging of the Paterson camp, she says that all she saw was "a lover's spat" between Johnson and another ex-girlfriend, and she denied that any violent contact happened. Another witness said Johnson punched the woman in the face. Brown seemed a more credible witness in that piece, but one must wonder, now, why her name keeps popping up when the governor needs or wants to save face.
Paterson has already said he won't resign, despite growing pleas that he should (as ably documented by Kathy Riordan). He's suspended Johnson, and he's said he never knew the extent of the violence between him and his ex-girlfriend.
Even if he didn't know, the problem isn't that he employed a guy who beats up women (though that is a problem); the problem here is Paterson's misunderstanding of his role. Even if all Paterson thought was going on was a non-violent lovers' spat, using the people who work for you to intervene is bad form. If you are the governor of New York, it's absolutely wrong. You want to get involved? You call on your home phone. You call your non-affiliated-with-government friends and ask for their help and advice. You don't ask people whose income depends on your good favor to do these things for you. Even if you say you're coming to them not as the governor, but as a friend -- you are still the governor.
At least, David Paterson, you are for a bit longer. The calls from NOW today focus on Paterson's role as a possible enabler of or apologist for domestic violence. That, if it's true, is terrible, and it's certainly reason for him to be removed from his office. The bigger, clearer issue right now, though, has nothing to do with what Paterson knew and when he knew it and what he did with that knowledge. It's that he acted at all that's troubling. Paterson seems to have used his office in ways that he clearly never should have. For that alone, he should leave Albany. His actions have tarnished the office, and he will be less effective from here on out because of it.