DA report: Spitzer lied

Albany County District Attorney David Soares issued a report Friday suggesting Eliot Spitzer lied to
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Albany County District Attorney David Soares issued a report Friday suggesting Eliot Spitzer lied to him last year, as the then governor tried to cover up his role in the “Troopergate” scandal.

Troopergate report

To read Albany County District Attorney David Soares’ complete report on the Troopergate scandal, click here (Warning: Report includes objectionable language).

The only reason Soares did not refer Spitzer’s conduct to a grand jury for possible indictment, the report said, is that Spitzer is no longer a public official. Spitzer announced his resignation on March 12 after being exposed as a client of a high-priced prostitution ring.

“Troopergate” is the name attached by Soares and others to efforts last year by the Spitzer administration to use state police to monitor and discredit Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick.

Spitzer denied on many occasions any involvement in those efforts. He denied it to Soares last year when the district attorney was conducting his first investigation into Troopergate.

But this year, after Soares granted immunity from prosecution to Darren Dopp, Spitzer’s former communications director, Dopp implicated Spitzer in the scandal.

According to Dopp, Spitzer at first counseled restraint in releasing information to reporters about Bruno’s use of state aircraft, but later changed his mind and denounced the Senate leader in a stream of obscenities. Spitzer then, according to Dopp, became highly involved in reviewing the material about Bruno, overseeing its release to reporters and commenting on the stories they wrote. At one point, the report says, Spitzer arranged for a former state police official to brief a reporter.

When Soares interviewed Spitzer during his investigation, the report says, the then governor answered “no” when asked if he ever directed “the gathering of any documents concerning Senator Bruno’s use of state transportation at any time?” He also answered “no” when asked “Did you direct the release of any documents at any time to the media concerning Senator Bruno’s use of state transportation?” Spitzer was not under oath during the interview.

Soares’ report says: “If Dopp’s testimony is credited, then former Governor Spitzer’s answers were not truthful.” The report clearly implies that Soares believes Dopp, not Spitzer, saying, for example: “We are simply concluding that the interests of New York state and Albany County are better served with Dopp’s cooperation and truthful testimony.”

Soares said he held to his original finding that Troopergate itself did not involve criminal conduct, but suggested Spitzer’s statements to him last year might have involved “misconduct, non-feasance or neglect” that a grand jury could have investigated, had not Spitzer already resigned.

Troopergate has been the subject of several investigations, the first and most significant of which was by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who, like Spitzer and Soares, is a Democrat. Cuomo’s report was critical of three top Spitzer administration officials, Dopp, William Howard, and Preston Felton, then the acting superintendent of state police.

On Friday, Cuomo issued a statement saying: “Our report last July found that members of Governor Spitzer’s senior administration staff had used the state police in a political plot to discredit an adversary. The Albany district attorney’s report today demonstrates this same improper conduct. Indeed, the district attorney’s report also reveals that the scheme involved the former governor himself.

“I believe our statements and findings of eight months ago have been proven correct. Those who sought to minimize this incident, or isolate the conduct to one or two mid-level staff, were wrong. A political plot involving state police by senior state officials is a toxic brew. In government, even a legitimate goal does not justify unscrupulous means.

“This situation also proves the old adage: ‘The cover-up is worse than the crime.’ ”

Sen. George Winner, R-Elmira, chairman of the Senate Investigations Committee, issued a statement critical of Soares, saying he “could have undertaken a hard-hitting investigation that used, to the fullest extent, all of the investigatory powers at his disposal.

“Instead, District Attorney Soares just kept trying to protect Governor Spitzer. He failed to pursue a competent and thorough investigation.”

Soares was not available for an interview Friday evening, his spokeswoman said. Spitzer’s spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Gov. David Paterson said he “will now take the time necessary to properly review” the Soares report.

Bruno issued a statement saying “this report sheds more light on a sad and disgraceful chapter in New York state history and on a governor who clearly had his priorities wrong and, as I said so often, lacked the temperament to govern.”

Bruno also said the report showed Spitzer “was obsessed with conducting a political ‘hit job’ to damage me personally and politically; and that the administration enlisted favored members of the news media, principally the Albany Times Union, to carry out their plot.”

Times Union Editor Rex Smith was out of the office and unavailable for comment, said Associate Editor Mike Spain on Friday evening.

Dopp could not be reached for comment. He was suspended by Spitzer and then resigned after the Cuomo report was issued last year, and now works for a lobbying firm run by Patricia Lynch, former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

After releasing last year’s report, Soares said in a press conference that Spitzer was not involved in Troopergate, and had in fact tried to restrain his aides. His report Friday painted an entirely different picture.

Soares is in his first term as district attorney and is up for re-election this year. Unlike previous Albany DAs, he has taken on state corruption, notably in the case of Comptroller Alan Hevesi, whom he successfully prosecuted and compelled to resign.

However, Paul Clyne, the former DA whom Soares defeated and who may run against him again, has been critical of Soares’ high-profile involvement in both the Troopergate case and his major investigation into the illegal use and sale of steroids.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply