New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has apologized to his family and the public after it was reported that he was involved in prostitution. Now many New Yorkers wonder whether the man whose crime-fighting reputation is on the line can stay in power.
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To understand how far Eliot Spitzer is falling, it helps to understand how high he climbed. As the attorney general of New York, Spitzer wielded national power. His jurisdiction included Wall Street. He sometimes seemed to investigate financial scandals more aggressively than the federal government, and he went on to win a huge victory in his run for New York governor.
That made him one of the Democratic Party's biggest stars. This is the man who appeared before reporters yesterday apologizing to his family and the public. NPR's Margot Adler reports on the prostitution ring that claimed the governor as a customer.
MARGOT ADLER: Law enforcement officials told the New York Times that Governor Spitzer is identified in court papers as Client 9. The wiretap was part of an investigation of the Emperor's Club VIP. The investigation that revealed this meeting with a prostitute started as a routine tax investigation last year. Investigators were looking at some unusual movements of cash involving the governor. The Times said the money ended up in shell companies, and the first assumption was that this was a case of political corruption or bribery. No one suspected prostitution. The court affidavit shows Client 9 paying to bring a prostitute called Kristen from New York to Washington for a meeting at a hotel in February and giving this woman $4,300. With his wife standing soberly by his side, Governor Spitzer apologized to New Yorkers.
Governor ELIOT SPITZER (Democrat, New York): I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and that violates my or any sense of right and wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.
ADLER: Governor Spitzer did not answer questions and reporters shouted out, are you resigning, as he left. Eliot Spitzer was incredibly popular as New York's attorney general. He took on Wall Street, organized crime and even busted several prostitution rings.
In 2002, Time Magazine called him the Crusader. Tabloids called him Eliot Ness. And he won the governorship in a landslide. Since taking office, the governor has had problems. An unpopular attempt to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants backfired. And his top aides attempted to embarrass his chief political rival, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.
In Albany, the Republican minority leader in the state assembly, Jim Tedisco said bluntly…
Assemblyman JIM TEDISCO (Republican, New York State Assembly; Minority Leader): I think the implication is if indeed he was involved in this, I don't think there's any way he could continue to be the executive here or be the governor. Because he had such a high level of propensity to talk about ethics and the important of ethics and honesty and integrity, and that's what we liked about the governor. That's why he got that tremendous mandate.
ADLER: Other reaction to the governor's situation went across the board. Former Governor Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, called it an excruciating personal tragedy for his family and the rest of our society to whom he has meant so much.
Most New Yorkers were utterly shocked. Brooke Masters is the author of a biography of Spitzer called "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer." She called many of the people she talked to for her book and said most of them were stunned.
Ms. BROOKE MASTERS (Author, "Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer"): This was a guy, and is a guy, who used to blush or at least sort of be uncomfortable when people told dirty jokes. Who - and you should hear him talk about his daughters and his wife with real pride in his voice. You know, there are politicians you meet and you know they've got issues. This is not one of them.
ADLER: What now remains to be seen is if Governor Spitzer can survive politically. At his brief news conference he had this statement…
Gov. SPITZER: We sought to bring real change to New York, and that will continue.
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New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer stayed out of the public eye Tuesday, a day after allegations surfaced that he spent thousands of dollars for a night with a call girl.
But that didn't stop the increasing pressure for the New York governor to step down. Three New York newspapers want him to resign. And a top state Republican is threatening to push for impeachment if Spitzer doesn't leave within 48 hours.
In order for articles of impeachment to get to the floor, there would first have to be support from the Democratic majority in the state Assembly.
The process would then have to gain at least two-thirds approval of the combined vote of the Republican-controlled Senate and the nine-member Court of Appeals to proceed to trial.
Two Democratic officials close to Spitzer say he hasn't decided whether to resign, and that he hasn't set a timetable for a decision.
A law enforcement official told the Associated Press Tuesday that the case grew out of a public corruption inquiry triggered by Spitzer's movement of cash to bank accounts operated by the call-girl ring.
Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, the official said that Spitzer was the initial target of the investigation, and that he was tracked using court-ordered wiretaps.
Investigators said the public-corruption unit of the U.S. attorney's office got involved after the IRS looked into a complaint of a potential violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, the government's main tool against money laundering.
The governor could potentially be charged with a crime called "structuring" — meaning that the payments were designed to hide their actual purpose.
After issuing a brief apology Monday, Spitzer made only a vague mention to his future, saying that he "must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family." He did not elaborate.
A Spitzer spokesman said that the governor has retained the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, one of the nation's biggest firms.
Spitzer was allegedly caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet in a Washington hotel room the night before Valentine's Day with a prostitute from a call-girl business known as the Emperor's Club V.I.P.
The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case. But he is reportedly identified in an affidavit as Client 9.
Excerpts from the federal complaint that charges four individuals with operating a prostitution ring. The complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York. It is reported that Client-9 is New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Temeka Lewis is one of the four defendants. "Kristen" is an Emperors Club prostitute, the document says. QAT, mentioned in section 75, is a bank account customers used for payments.
b. February 13, 2008, Interstate Transportation From New York To Washington, D.C.
73. On February 11, 2008, at approximately 10:53 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... sent a text message ... "Pls let me know if (Client-9's) `package' (believed to be a reference to a deposit of money sent by mail) arrives 2mrw. Appt would b on Wed."
74. On February 12, 2008, at approximately 2:37 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... left a message for "Kristen" that the "deposit" had not arrived today, but that they should be able to do the trip if the deposit arrived tomorrow. ... Lewis and "Kristen" then discussed the time that "Kristen" would take the train from New York to Washington, D.C. Lewis told "Kristen" that there was a 5:39 p.m. train that arrived at 9:00 p.m., and that "Kristen" would be taking the train out of Penn Station. Lewis confirmed that Client-9 would be paying for everything — train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel. Lewis said that they would probably not know until 3 p.m. if the deposit arrived because Client-9 would not do traditional wire transferring.
75. At approximately 8:14 p.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant, ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Lewis told Client-9 that the "package" did not arrive today. Lewis asked Client-9 if there was a return address on the envelope, and Client-9 said no. Lewis asked: "You had QAT ...," and Client-9 said: "Yup, same as in the past, no question about it." Lewis asked Client-9 what time he was interested in having the appointment tomorrow. Clinet-9 told her 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. Lewis told Client-9 to call her back in five minutes....
(Parts 76-77 refer to discussion of the delay in the "package.")
78. At approximately 3:20 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Lewis told Client-9 that they were still trying to determine if his deposit had arrived. Client-9 told Lewis that he had made a reservation at the hotel, and had paid for it in his name. Client-9 said that there would be a key waiting for her, and told Lewis that what he had on account with her covered the "transportation" (believed to be a reference to the cost of the trainfare for "Kristen" from New York to Washington, D.C.). Lewis said that she would try to make it work ...
(Part 78 concludes with a text message to Lewis stating "(P)ackage arrived. Pls be sure he rsvp hotel." Part 79 details train information sent to "Kristen.")
80. At approximately 4:58 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... told Client-9 that his package arrived today, and Client-9 said good. Lewis asked Client-9 what time he was expecting to have the appointment. Client-9 told Lewis maybe 10:00 p.m. or so, and asked who it was. Lewis said it was "Kristen," and Client-9 said "great, okay, wonderful." Lewis told Client-9 that she would give him a final price later ...
(Part 81 includes discussion with Client-9 on payment.)
82. At approximately 8:47 p.m. Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant ... received a call from Client-9. During the call, Client-9 told Lewis to tell "Kristen" to go to the hotel and go to room 871. Client-9 told Lewis that the door would be open. ... Client-9 asked Lewis to remind him what "Kristen" looked like, and Lewis said that she was an American, petite, very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds. Client-9 said that she should go straight to 871, and if for any reason it did not work out, she should call Lewis.
(Parts 83 and 84 concern "Kristen" telling Lewis that she is in the hotel room, and more discussion of payment.)
85. On February 14, 2008, at approximately 12:02 a.m., Temeka Rachelle Lewis, a/k/a/ "Rachelle," the defendant, received a call from "Kristen." ... Lewis asked "Kristen" how she thought the appointment went, and "Kristen" said that she thought it went very well. Lewis asked "Kristen" how much she collected, and "Kristen" said $4,300. "Kristen" said that she liked him, and that she did not think he was difficult. "Kristen" stated: "I don't think he's difficult. I mean it's just kind of like ... whatever ... I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is. I'm not a ... moron, you know what I mean. So maybe that's why girls maybe think they're difficult..." "Kristen" continued: "That's what it is, because you're here for a purpose. Let's not get it twisted — I know what I do, you know." Lewis responded: "You look at it very uniquely, because. ... no one ever says it that way." Lewis continued that from what she had been told "he" (believed to be a reference to Client-9) "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe — you know — I mean that ... very basic things. ... "Kristen" responded: "I have a way of dealing with that. ... I'd be like listen dude, you really want the sex? ... You know what I mean." Near the end of the call, Lewis and "Kristen" discussed "Kristen's" departure via Amtrak, the room that Client-9 had provided for "Kristen," and "Kristen's" share of the cash that Client-9 had provided to her.