Wednesday, February 24, 2010

David Paterson Aide Accused of Violent Assault: Paterson Aide David W. Johnson Suspended No Pay

An aide to New York Governor David Paterson is accused of violently assaulting an unnamed woman. Last Fall, the woman went to court to get a protective order against the aide, David W. Johnson. Since that time, the victim has had to walk a minefield to bring attention to her case. Has the influence of a Governor's office abused the civil rights of a victim of assault? One thing is not in doubt: it took 4 months to investigate Johnson and suspend his pay until the inquiry is complete.

The alleged assault is not the only thing raising eyebrows around the Governor's office.  "Current and former senior aides," have expressed concern about the influence Johnson has on the governor, but no specifics were given.

David Johnson, 37, has been with Paterson in several positions, beginning as an intern when Paterson was a state legislator. He has served as a driver, a "protector," and a scheduler.

In recent months, however, Mr. Johnson’s ascent has been striking: he is now one of the most senior people in the governor’s administration, paid $132,000. He is described as Mr. Paterson’s closest confidant, a man with a designated room for his overnight stays in the Executive Mansion, and a broadening role in areas like campaign strategy, government initiatives and the management of the governor’s staff.  
Recent investigations show that Johnson has been arrested twice on felony drug charges as a teenager, and at least one misdemeanor assault arrest sometime in the 1990's.

Johnson and the victim were apparently living together along with her 13-year-old son when the assault happened in their apartment:
The alleged assault happened shortly before 8 p.m. on Halloween on the apartment she had shared with Mr. Johnson and her 13-year-old son for about four years, according to police records.
She told the police that Mr. Johnson, who is 6-foot-7, had choked her, stripped her of much of her clothing, smashed her against a mirrored dresser and taken two telephones from her to prevent her from calling for help, according to police records.  
The victim has received protective orders against Johnson twice. She fears retaliation, and has asked that her name not be released. A protective order in New York State do not take effect until the person has been served. Apparently, Johnson was able to evade receiving the documents, or perhaps there was little effort to find him. It's unclear. She also told the court on several occasions that the State Police were harrassing her.
 In the ensuing months, she returned to court twice to press her case, complaining that the State Police had been harassing her to drop it. The State Police, which had no jurisdiction in the matter, confirmed that the woman was visited by a member of the governor’s personal security detail.
Then, just before she was due to return to court to seek a final protective order, the woman got a phone call from the governor, according to her lawyer. She failed to appear for her next hearing on Feb. 8, and as a result her case was dismissed.  
Many details of the governor’s role in this episode are unclear, but the accounts presented in court and police records and interviews with the woman’s lawyer and others portray a brutal encounter, a frightened woman and an effort to make a potential political embarrassment go away.   
Johnson has had three other known "altercations with women." Two led to calls to police. One of them required "the intervention" of David Paterson's chief of staff." That's of no consequences, however, according to Paterson whose office said "there had never been a judicial finding," against Johnson. When Paterson was a state senator, a witness said Johnson "punched a girlfriend" outside of Paterson's Harlem office. Johnson denied the report.

Paterson has asked that Attorney General Cuomo investigate his office and it's handling of the matter. David W. Johnson has been suspended without pay.

Here's how it works when you are connected to the office of the New York State Governor - the victim is given "options."
The State Police superintendent, Harry J. Corbitt, said he was told of the episode within 24 hours after it occurred. He confirmed that a state police officer had met with the woman, even though the episode occurred in the jurisdiction of the New York Police Department. He said the visit was made only to tell the woman of her options, including seeking counseling. 
...we never pressured her not to press charges,” said Mr. Corbitt, whom the governor appointed. “We just gave her options.”   
This article has more about the visit from the State Police and you can hear Corbitt spinning. We'll see what AG Cuomo's office says about David Johnson. It only took 4 months to get the investigation going and his pay suspended.

©2007-2012copyrightMaggie M. Thornton