(Photo: AP)

Already reeling from an investigation into his handling of the domestic violence case of a top aide, beleaguered Gov. David Paterson was dealt another blow Wednesday when a state ethics panel found he unlawfully accepted tickets to a Yankees World Series game.

The State Public Integrity Commission found Paterson solicited free tickets to the first game of the 2009 series for himself, his son, his son’s friend and two aides, gave false testimony about it under oath and back-dated a check to make it look like he had tried to pay for the tickets all along.

Paterson denied he did anything wrong, but with the capital in upheaval over the his previous scandal and pressure mounting to close a $9 billion budget gap by April 1, speculation is growing over whether the governor’s days are numbered.

“The coffin is not sealed but there’s only a few more nails left before it is lowered in the ground,” said state Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Manhattan).

In unusually strong language, the commission found Paterson violated state ethics laws in accepting gifts from the Yankees, which is registered as a lobbyist. It imposed fines of up to $90,000 and referred the case to both Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County Prosecutor for possible criminal charges.

Paterson repeated that he would not resign and said he intends to fight the ethics charges. He said he did not lie to the commission.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

“The facts of the testimony ... are in dispute," Paterson said. “We also dispute that I ... acted improperly.”

Paterson could challenge the commission’s findings in court.

According to the commission, Paterson staff members asked the Yankees for tickets and submitted an opinion by the governor’s counsel that Paterson would be attending in an official capacity, which might have allowed him to go for free. But after press inquiries about the game, Paterson said he intended to pay for the seats and produced a back dated check for $850.

Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said Paterson “should have known better.”

"If this turns out to be true that would be extremely damning and it would be hard for him to continue [as governor],” Haven said.

A spokeswoman for the Yankees said the team “fully cooperated” with the commission.

One of the aides who attended the game and was instrumental in securing the tickets was David Johnson, the suspended staffer at the center of the other Paterson scandal.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether Paterson, two state employees and members of the governor’s state police detail improperly contacted a woman who was seeking an order of protection against Johnson stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident.

“There’s a feeling of when is this ever going to end because every day there’s another event that makes governing difficult,” said Assemb. Jonathan Bing (D-Manhattan).

jfink@am-ny.com