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Paterson denies coercing victim of alleged assault

Gov. David Paterson arrives to the Capitol in

Gov. David Paterson arrives to the Capitol in Albany, Wednesday, March 3, 2010. Credit: AP

Gov. David A. Paterson, in his first extensive comments about the investigation into whether he intervened improperly in a domestic violence case, said Wednesday he never tried to "coerce" anyone and is eager to tell his side of the story.

"I, at all times, upheld the oath of my office and never at any point attempted to influence or coerce anyone to do anything they didn't want to do," Paterson told reporters in Albany.

His comments came as a legal source familiar with the probe told Newsday that investigators for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo have been questioning state troopers about the actions of their superiors, including State Police Superintendent Harry J. Corbitt.

Corbitt, who retired for the second time Wednesday and denies wrongdoing, has said troopers contacted the victim of an alleged assault by a top Paterson aide in order to explain her "options," according to The New York Times.

The source, who didn't want to be named, said Cuomo's staff has subpoenaed State Police officers believed to be on the periphery of events in hope of finding more important subjects and targets for the probe.

"They are just working their way up," said the source. "It is an old technique." The source cautioned that the fact that officers have been asked about the actions of Corbitt and his subordinates doesn't mean Corbitt acted illegally.

According to news reports, Paterson spoke by telephone with the alleged assault victim the day before she was to go to court for a permanent order of protection against veteran Paterson aide David Johnson. A state employee also alleges that Paterson asked her to contact the victim and relay to her that, "the governor wants her to make this go away," the Times reported Wednesday.

Paterson, who says he did nothing improper, on Wednesday cited his more than 20 years working on domestic violence issues, saying he believed he always had shown "sensitivity" to victims.

He said he wished he could publicly discuss the allegations against him, but that he's prohibited by the ongoing investigation.

"The last thing I want to do is offend the attorney general's office and the investigators - the reason being that I feel when the facts are displayed and when the truth comes out I will be vindicated," Paterson said.

A spokesman for the State Police declined to comment when asked about the focus of the Cuomo probe. A Cuomo spokesman also declined to comment on the focus of the investigative interviews.

Defense attorneys and other sources have said Cuomo is looking into possible misdemeanor witness tampering and obstruction of justice charges.

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