Spitzer resigns effective Monday

Investigators: Spitzer, as governor, had been a regular customer of The Emperor's Club
March 12, 2008 6:13:51 PM PDT
Eliot Spitzer resigned as governor of New York at a press conference in Manhattan today.

"Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct," Spitzer said with his wife Silda by his side again. "I can and will ask no less of myself. For this reason, I am resigning from the office of governor."

"I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me...I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been," Spitzer said, apologizing for the second time this week. "There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work."

"The remorse I feel will always be with me," he added. "I hope all of New York will join my prayers for my friend, David Paterson, as he embarks on his new mission."

The Democratic governor made no mention of the potential criminal charges he may face.

"There is no agreement between this Office and Governor Eliot Spitzer, relating to his resignation or any other matter," U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael J. Garcia said today in a statement.

In addition to his wife, Spitzer was accompanied by top white-collar defense attorney Ted Wells of the firm Paul Weiss, who most recently defended Scooter Libby and who successfully defended former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy and U.S. Labor Secretary Ray Donovan against state prosecutors.

At the request of New York Lt. Gov. David Paterson, Spitzer's resignation will take effect Monday, March 17, he said. He and his wife took no questions after his statement.

Lt. Gov. Paterson had told New York officials earlier that Spitzer would resign. The resignation letter, which had been drafted yesterday, is expected to be submitted to the New York secretary of state, according to officials involved in the process.

Lt. Gov. Paterson will be sworn in as governor Monday before a joint session of the New York state legislature, becoming the first African-American to hold that post in New York. It is expected that cabinet-level and other senior officials of the Spitzer administration will retain their current posts through the completion of the New York state budget process, which is ongoing.

"As an elected official the Governor has worked hard for the people of New York," Lt. Gov. Paterson said in a statement released shortly after Spitzer's press conference. "It is now time for Albany to get back to work as the people of this state expect from us," he added.

It is an astounding fall from power for the former take-no-prisoners prosecutor, brought down by a high-price prostitution ring. Spitzer's resignation came just a little less than 48 hours after he was linked to a federal investigation involving that ring.

"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong," Spitzer said Monday with his wife by his side, just hours after news broke of his involvement with the ring.

Federal investigators say Spitzer, as governor, had been a regular customer of a prostitution business known as the Emperor's Club.

According to an FBI affidavit, Client 9, identified by authorities as Spitzer, arranged for a prostitute named "Kristen" to travel from New York to Washington, D.C. She met Spitzer, who had registered under the pseudonym George Fox, in Room 871 of the Mayflower Hotel, collecting $4,300 in cash from Spitzer.

In a phone call secretly recorded by the FBI, Kristen later told her boss in New York about the event, dismissing concerns that Spitzer might demand "unsafe things."

Federal authorities say the investigation began last October when the IRS received a report from a bank about suspicious activity connected to an account controlled by Spitzer.

Initially believing the activity could involve bribes, the Justice Department asked the FBI's public corruption squad to join the investigation.

It was only later, authorities say, that federal agents learned Spitzer had been moving the money to pay for the prostitutes. Authorities say "tens of thousands of dollars" are involved.

As Spitzer prepared his letter of resignation, political figures said his defense lawyers were negotiating with federal prosecutors over a possible plea negotiation.

Ironically, the financial crimes he may be charged with are some of the same crimes he prosecuted as New York's attorney general in his meteoric rise to prominence.