New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a high-end prostitution ring has trashed the career of a man who made his reputation by zealously prosecuting corruption. He has given no indication that he plans to resign. But Republicans in the state legislature say they will move to impeach Spitzer if he doesn't quit.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
Eliot Spitzer's fate as governor of New York remains up in the air. The crusading Democratic governor was caught up in a high-priced prostitution ring. Support for Spitzer is eroding. Three of New York's major newspapers are calling on him to quit. We have several reports, the first from NPR's Margot Adler.
MARGOT ADLER: Republican legislators in New York are already calling for the impeachment of Governor Spitzer should he not resign within 48 hours. James Tedisco is the minority leader in the New York State Assembly.
Assemblyman JAMES TEDISCO (Republican, New York State Assembly): If he doesn't resign, we have to do what we have to do to get this distraction out of the way so we can move forward and get a new leader in place.
ADLER: The New York Daily News editorial said today three words to the man: Just get out. The New York Post said, Eliot Spitzer must resign. The New York Times, while gentler, cited his arrogance and hubris, and said it was hard to see how he can recover from this mess.
But Paul Finkelman, a professor of law at Albany Law School in Albany, New York, said Governor Spitzer is clearly holed up with political and legal advisers trying to figure out what to do.
Professor PAUL FINKELMAN (Law, Albany law School): Does he ride it out?
ADLER: When I asked, does that even seem remotely possible? He replied...
Prof. FINKELMAN: I just keep thinking about President Clinton. And everybody said President Clinton was dead, and he clearly wasn't.
ADLER: The governor's legal situation is unclear. According to the governor's office, he has hired the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, one of the nation's largest firms. So what legal problems could he face? Generally, clients of prostitutes are not prosecuted. Eliot Spitzer was identified as client number nine by law enforcement officials. Spitzer allegedly paid $4,300 to a call girl, Kristen, to take a train from New York to Washington, D.C., for a tryst at the Mayflower Hotel.
The legal problem Spitzer could face might involve what is called structuring - concealing payments to disguise criminal activity. In this case, banks noticed odd transfers of money. These transfers were traced to Governor Spitzer and were reported to the IRS, prompting a political corruption investigation. No one suspected prostitution; only later did the Emperor's Club VIP come under scrutiny. So is transferring money to a shell corporation enough to do Spitzer in? Finkelman says there says there may not be much there.
Prof. FINKELMAN: He's moving his own money from place to place; I don't think that's a federal crime, even if it alerts the IRS that something fishy might be going on.
ADLER: There's also the question of whether the governor violated the Mann Act by paying a prostitute to cross state lines, going from New York to Washington, D.C. But some legal experts say no client has been prosecuted under the Mann Act for decades. Governor Spitzer has not been charged. There are four defendants charged in the Emperor's Club VIP case. Each could face five years on conspiracy to transport prostitutes across state lines.
But more than these legal questions, the one thing that makes it seem pretty evident that Governor Spitzer's political future may be over is that he promoted this image of Mr. Clean. And now, he is seen as hypocrite with no credibility. And, says Professor Paul Finkelman, think of his stupidity. It's incredible, he says, that a man with such knowledge of crime and the way crimes are uncovered…
Prof. FINKELMAN: …would allow himself to be involved in something that's this easy to trace, and this stupid.
ADLER: Meanwhile, we continue to wait while the governor ponders.
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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.