Official: NY Gov Caught on Wiretap
Monday, March 10, 2008 3:51:53 PM
By AMY WESTFELDT
A law enforcement official has told The Associated Press that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a prostitution ring was caught on a federal wiretap.
The official says Spitzer is identified in court papers as "Client 9," and the wiretap was part of an investigation that opened in the last few months.
The official says the New York governor met last month with at least one woman in a Washington hotel. The law enforcement official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
(AP) -- Gov. Eliot Spitzer, accused in news reports of being involved in a prostitution ring, apologized to his family and the public on Monday at a hastily called news conference. He did not elaborate on the story.
With his wife at his side, Spitzer told reporters that he "acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family."
"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," he said. "I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family."
The New York Times reported earlier in the day that Spitzer told senior administration officials that he was linked to a prostitiution ring. The report cited an anonymous administration official.
The Times reported that a person with knowledge of the governor's role believes the governor is identified in court papers as a client of a prostitution ring. Four people allegedly connected to a high-end ring called the Emperors Club VIP were arrested last week.
The Web site of the Emperors Club VIP displays photographs of scantily clad women with their faces hidden. It also shows hourly rates depending on whether the prostitutes were rated with one diamond, the lowest ranking, or seven diamonds, the highest. The most highly ranked prostitutes cost $5,500 an hour, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the defendants arranged connections between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris.
The Times reported that the governor's travel records show he was in Washington in mid-February, and that one of the clients arranged to meet with a prostitute on the night of Feb. 13.
The case is being handled by prosecutors in the Public Corruption unit of U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia's office. Garcia spokeswoman Yusill Scribner said the office had no comment.
Around a stunned state Capitol in Albany, lawmakers and staff huddled around televisions to see the news conference. A media mob gathered outside the office of Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who would become governor if Spitzer was to resign.
Spitzer, 48, built his political reputation on rooting out corruption, including several headline-making battles with Wall Street while serving as attorney general. He stormed into the governor's office in 2006 with a historic share of the vote, vowing to continue his no-nonsense approach to fixing one of the nation's worst governments.
Time magazine had named him "Crusader of the Year" when he was attorney general and the tabloids proclaimed him "Eliot Ness."
But his stint as governor has been marred by several problems, including an unpopular plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and a plot by his aides to smear Spitzer's main Republican nemesis.
Spitzer had been expected to testify to the state Public Integrity Commission he had created to answer for his role in the scandal, in which his aides were accused of misusing state police to compile travel records to embarrass Senate Republican leader Joseph Bruno.
Spitzer had served two terms as attorney general where he pursued criminal and civil cases and cracked down on misconduct and conflicts of interests on Wall Street and in corporate America. He had previously been a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, handling organized crime and white-collar crime cases.
His cases as state attorney general included a few criminal prosecutions of prostitution rings and into tourism involving prostitutes.
In 2004, he was part of an investigation of an escort service in New York City that resulted in the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges.
Associated Press Writer Mike Gormley contributed to this report from Albany, N.Y.