GOODY TWO SHOES: Oh, Mann!
Nicknamed “Eliot Ness” when he served as the state’s overzealous white collar crime-fighting Attorney General, Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) will forever be remembered by a new moniker: Client 9.
Spitzer found himself on the wrong side of a federal wiretap, caught arranging to meet a $5,000- an-hour call girl at a hotel in Washington, D.C., reports The New York Times:
The wiretap captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a hotel room, according to an affidavit filed in federal court in Manhattan. …
Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, which are generally seen as state crimes. But the Mann Act … makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution. The four defendants charged in the case unsealed last week were all charged with that crime, along with several others.
ABC News reports:
As recently as this past Valentine's Day, Feb. 13, Spitzer, who officials say is identified in a federal complaint as “Client 9,” arranged for a prostitute “Kristen” to meet him in Washington, D.C.
The woman met Client 9 at the Mayflower Hotel, room 871, “for her tryst,” according to the complaint. Client 9 also is alleged to have paid for the woman's train tickets, cab fare, mini bar and room service, travel time and hotel.
According to ABC News, federal agents originally thought they were investigating a bribery scandal:
The federal investigation of a New York prostitution ring was triggered by Gov. Eliot Spitzer's suspicious money transfers, initially leading agents to believe Spitzer was hiding bribes, according to federal officials.
It was only months later that the IRS and the FBI determined that Spitzer wasn't hiding bribes but payments to a company called QAT, what prosecutors say is a prostitution operation operating under the name of the Emperors Club.
Blinking back tears at the obligatory press conference (video link) to address the allegations, Spitzer swallowed his pride and launched into a 64-second prepared statement, with his wan-looking wife Silda by his side looking on:
“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong. I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”
Now the business of the people has come to a standstill as legislators in Albany on both sides of the aisle await Spitzer’s resignation. Assembly Minority Leader James N. Tedisco (R-Schenectady), has threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings if the governor did not step down within 48 hours, reports The New York Times. In an editorial, the paper gives Spitzer a dose of strong medicine: “To put it bluntly, Mr. Spitzer must either resign immediately or explain why he deserves to continue in office. It is almost impossible for us to imagine how he can survive this scandal and provide the credible leadership that his state needs. New York’s government cannot afford to be paralyzed while Mr. Spitzer games his political prospects or, as many suspect, tries to work out a better legal deal with federal prosecutors.”
Spitzer’s predicament is replete with irony:
† In addition to federal charges relating to structuring, the Horace Mann School graduate could be charged under the Mann Act (AKA The White Slave Traffic Act of 1910), and faces as much as 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
† “Mayflower” was once just a ship that brought the dregs of English society to these shores. Now, the name is inextricably associated with prostitution: Spitzer’s assignation took place at the Mayflower Hotel, and Sydney Biddle Barrows (AKA the Mayflower Madam) ran a high-priced escort service, Cachet, in NYC from 1979 to 1984. Barrows had this to say about the possibility of Spitzer being criminally charged: “We have terrorists out there. We have murderers, we have rapists, child molesters. And they're worried about somebody getting (sex)? … Who has this man hurt? Who has this man hurt? This man has hurt nobody." (Um, Spitzer’s wife, Silda, and daughters Elyssa, 17, Sarabeth, 15, and Jenna, 13, probably disagree with the Mayflower Moron.)
† “[A]s attorney general Mr. Spitzer … prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force” and his arch-enemy Joseph L. Bruno, the state’s Republican majority leader, could become acting governor “should Mr. Spitzer resign and if [Lt. Gov. David] Paterson were unwilling or unable to take his place.” [The New York Times]
† “Spitzer, who made his name by bringing high-profile cases against many of New York's financial giants, is likely to be prosecuted under a relatively obscure statute called ‘structuring,’ according to a Justice Department official. Structuring involves creating a series of financial movements designed to obscure the true purpose of the payments.” [ABC News]
† “The financial transactions by which [Spitzer] endeavored to conceal his payments to the Emperors Club were unusual enough that they prompted a referral by his bank to the IRS, which in turn brought in the FBI and ultimately the prosecutors. …Prosecutors are supposed to know better. But … Spitzer appears to have left behind precisely the kind of paper trail that he once used himself in pursuit of Wall Street malefactors, real or imagined.” [The Wall Street Journal’s “Political Diary,” last item]
And the biggest irony of all: In one of those unfortunate situations when breaking news overtakes a long-lead publication, the March 10-17, 2008 “Special Double Issue” of New York magazine includes a lengthy profile of Bruno that details why “Spitzer’s been determined to get rid of him” and predicts that “Spitzer finally has him on the ropes.”
As is usually the case when the high-and-mighty fall, the all-you-can-eat irony buffet comes with a side of tragedy. Given the sexual proclivities to which defendant Lewis alludes on page 30 of the complaint (The Stiletto is guessing that Spitzer didn't ask “Kristen” to "talk wonky to me"), Spitzer also possibly exposed his wife to a raft of skankily transmitted diseases:
On February 14, 2008, at approximately 12:02 a.m., TEMEKA RACHELLE LEWIS, a/k/a “Rachelle,” the defendant, received a call from “Kristen.” …
LEWIS asked “Kristen” how much she collected, and “Kristen” said $4,300. “Kristen” said that she liked him, and that she did not think he was difficult. …
LEWIS [said] … from what she had been told “he” (believed to be a reference to Client-9) “would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe - you know - I mean that … very basic things.
It is far beyond the intent of her “for better or for worse” wedding vows for Silda to have to stood by Spitzer’s side during the press conference after he betrayed her numerous times with a skanky ho. And on the day before Valentine’s Day, Client 9 should have been out buying Chanel No. 9 for Silda!
Spitzer alone committed the transgression, and he alone should have borne the public shame. Why drag his already-suffering wife into the media glare with him when all she probably wanted to do was to crawl into bed, curl up in a ball and pull the covers over her head? As Dina Matos McGreevy – who walked in Silda’s shoes four years ago – puts it: “Let’s get away from this notion that an elected official’s wife has to stand up there. If she wants to be there, great. If she doesn’t, that’s fine, too. But whatever you do, respect her privacy in the face of what is already an overwhelmingly painful situation.”
Addendum: Several hours after this posting, Eliot Spitzer resigned – again insisting that his abuse of the public trust and possibly criminal behavior is a “private failing” (video link), and again with his long-suffering wife by his side:
In the past few days I've begun to atone for my private failings with my wife, Silda, my children and my entire family. The remorse I feel will always be with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for the love and compassion they have shown me. …
There is much more to be done and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work. 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.
As of Monday, March 17th David Paterson assumes his duties as governor. As The Heel so pithily put it: The reins of state government will pass from the morally blind to the legally blind. All kidding aside, more than a few NYers are relieved that Spitzer’s reign of terror is finally over.