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Paterson promises to cooperate in probe

Gov. David A. Paterson, joined by wife Michelle,

Gov. David A. Paterson, joined by wife Michelle, speaks during a news conference in which he stated he would not seek a full term of his own. (Feb. 26, 2010) Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson pledged Friday to cooperate with former Chief Judge Judith Kaye in a probe of whether he interfered in a domestic violence case involving his longtime aide.

Kaye was appointed Thursday by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who recused himself after some African-American leaders said a conflict of interest existed. Cuomo is expected to run for governor this year.

In his first public comments on Kaye's role, Paterson said he had no regrets about initially asking Cuomo to launch the investigation on Feb. 25. The governor said it would have been inappropriate for the State Police to probe some of its members, who also have been accused of interfering in the domestic violence case.

"We knew the attorney general could investigate it himself or handle it in a different way," Paterson told WWRL / 1600 AM in Manhattan. "Whichever way it's handled . . . I'm just going to try to cooperate with it."

Citing the advice of his attorney, Paterson again declined to rebut charges that he sought last month to persuade the alleged assault victim to drop her case against his aide David Johnson.

Johnson's lawyer, Oscar Michelen, has said the two-week investigation should begin anew using staff hired by Kaye, not those from Cuomo's office. But Cuomo dismissed the proposal, saying Friday that Johnson's boss, Paterson, had confidence in the attorney general's office.

"Mr. Johnson works for the governor," Cuomo said, leaving a fundraiser in upstate Troy. "The governor is the one who referred the case of Mr. Johnson to my office. So, if there's a question on why did the governor refer the case to me, Mr. Johnson should ask the governor."

Cuomo also praised Kaye, the longest serving chief judge of the Court of Appeals, the state's highest. "She has no agenda whatsoever . . . She's not running for office," he said. "She's just there to do the right thing."

Cuomo's recusal came in the wake of polls showing voters divided on the appropriateness of him overseeing the Paterson probe and the first significant drop in Cuomo's approval ratings in months.

The alleged assault took place on Oct. 31 but wasn't publicly disclosed until last month. Since then four top staffers have left the Paterson administration. On Friday, the governor announced replacements for some of them.

Col. John P. Melville was promoted to acting State Police superintendent after nearly two years as field commander. He succeeds Harry J. Corbitt and Pedro J. Perez, who stepped down within about a week of each other. Paterson told WWRL he forced them out to make way for Melville.

Sean M. Byrne was named acting commissioner of the Criminal Justice Services Division, and Mary Kavaney became deputy secretary for public safety. Denise O'Donnell, a former federal prosecutor in Buffalo, had held both jobs.


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