Main | Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer May Resign, Face Criminal Charges

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is reportedly mulling resignation amid calls for his impeachment. His first order of business, however, will be to address the potential criminal charges.
The news was met with disbelief and shock in Albany, a capital accustomed to scandal. Some legislative assistants said they were too stunned to speak, and lawmakers gathered around television sets in hushed offices, trying to make sense of what had happened.

“We’re at a total standstill,” said Keith L. T. Wright, a Democratic assemblyman from Harlem. “Everybody is stunned. Everybody is absolutely stunned.”

Mr. Spitzer has not been charged with a crime. But one law enforcement official who has been briefed on the case said that Mr. Spitzer’s lawyers would probably meet soon with federal prosecutors to discuss any possible legal exposure. The official said the discussions were likely to focus not on prostitution, but on how it was paid for: Whether the payments from Mr. Spitzer to the service were made in a way to conceal their purpose and source. That could amount to a crime called structuring, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, declined to comment.

If Mr. Spitzer were to resign, Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson would serve out the remainder of his term. Mr. Paterson, who is legally blind, would become the first black governor of New York. State Senator Joseph L. Bruno, the state’s top Republican, would assume the duties of the lieutenant governor.
Should Spitzer resign, Lt. Governor David Patterson would take over, becoming New York's first black and first legally blind governor. In a story titled Could Spitzer's Woes Have A Silver Lining?, the Advocate speculates that Patterson would actually be a better champion for New York's gays.
If Spitzer were to resign, Lt. Gov. David Paterson would assume the responsibilities of governor, which most LGBT activists guessed would be the best-case scenario for gays and lesbians in the state. Paterson, who is legally blind and represented Harlem in the state senate, has typically been ahead of his time on gay issues over the years.

“David Paterson is a terrific, progressive guy -- extremely LGBT-friendly,” said Ethan Geto, a Democratic analyst and LGBT activist. “He is somebody who would absolutely follow through on the commitment of the senate Democratic conference to pass gay marriage.”

Paterson has been on record in support of marriage equality as early as 1994. When Paterson was asked if he would take part in pushing through the marriage bill following his inauguration in January 2007, he told the New York Blade, “I’m not going to be in that fight -- I’m going to be in front of that fight because my first day as [senate minority leader] was the day we passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act. One of the reasons we need same-sex marriage is because the statistics for heterosexual marriage are so bad; that might be a way to upgrade some of the success rates.”

As far back as 1987, Paterson refused to pass a state hate-crimes bill that didn’t provide protections for gays and lesbians. “He was willing to let everything go down rather than to exclude us,” Sherrill recalled.

Ultimately, LGBT leaders with knowledge of New York’s political landscape suggested that a Spitzer resignation might be work in the community’s favor.

“If Spitzer resigns, it might be a blessing in disguise from an LGBT agenda point of view,” said the anonymous source. “Spitzer would likely be damaged goods whereas Paterson won't have that baggage.”
Of course, Spitzer must resign. No matter how you feel about prostitution (and I suspect that most of you are like me and give the entire thing a big "meh"), he could never again be an effective leader.

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