After Months in Limbo, Paterson Aide Charged in Abuse Case Is Fired

Original article posted on December 13, 2010 on
He got his start as an intern but rose to become one of Gov. David A. Paterson’s most trusted and powerful aides, with a designated room at the Executive Mansion in Albany for overnight stays.
But he became embroiled in a domestic violence case, fueling a scandal that crippled Mr. Paterson politically and led the governor to abandon his campaign for a second term. And in November, Mr. Paterson finally fired the aide, David W. Johnson, who had been by the governor’s side for most of his adult life, the administration confirmed on Monday.

Mr. Johnson’s termination, according to payroll records, came one day after a Bronx judge denied a motion to dismiss a domestic violence charge against him.

Mr. Johnson was suspended on Feb. 25 after a report that he had assaulted his former companion, Sherr-una Booker, at her home on Oct. 31, 2009. Further revelations, including that the Paterson administration had intervened in the case and contacted Ms. Booker after the episode, wracked Mr. Paterson’s administration this year. But Mr. Johnson remained technically on the state payroll, granted so-called discretionary leave for almost nine months, drawing no salary. He remained a member of the administration even after his arrest in August on charges of assaulting Ms. Booker, and he was not formally fired until Nov. 19, according to state payroll records.

Mr. Johnson’s lawyer, Oscar Michelen, said his client had not taken a new job.
“He’s not employed,” Mr. Michelen said. “I can say he has not started a new position anywhere.”
Jessica Bassett, a spokeswoman for Mr. Paterson, declined to comment on the timing of Mr. Johnson’s dismissal. But on Nov. 18, one day before he was fired, the judge in Mr. Johnson’s case, Miriam R. Best, denied a motion by Mr. Johnson’s lawyer to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Judge Best also extended an order of protection against Mr. Johnson.

Ms. Booker had accused Mr. Johnson of tearing off her Halloween costume, choking her and shoving her into a dresser.

Asked if Mr. Johnson was discussing a potential plea deal with prosecutors, a spokesman for the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said he could not comment on pending cases. No trial date has been scheduled in the domestic violence case.

Mr. Michelen said that Mr. Johnson was preparing to go to trial.

Mr. Michelen also said there was no particular significance to the date of Mr. Johnson’s termination and described it as a housekeeping matter that accompanied the winding down of Mr. Paterson’s term and the conclusion of an inquiry into the administration’s handling of Mr. Johnson’s domestic violence case. Mr. Johnson asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in that investigation and refused to provide testimony.

In addition, Mr. Johnson was a central figure in a series of investigations into how he acquired tickets to the 2009 World Series for himself, Mr. Paterson and several others.
The Albany County district attorney, P. David Soares, is weighing perjury charges against Mr. Paterson stemming from the investigations into the World Series tickets.
Mr. Johnson’s departure represents a coda of sorts to Mr. Paterson’s tumultuous three years in office, a period during which the governor sought to address New York’s fiscal crises while buffeted by scandals and resignations.

Mr. Johnson began his career as an intern and then a driver in Mr. Paterson’s district office, when the governor, a Democrat, was a state senator from Harlem. He ultimately became the governor’s closest confidant, a man whose day-to-day job — as Mr. Paterson’s “body man” — belied his influence and reach in the executive chamber.

In July, Judith S. Kaye — the special counsel assigned by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo to investigate whether Mr. Paterson had sought to persuade Ms. Booker not to pursue charges against Mr. Johnson — concluded that Mr. Paterson had indeed spoken with Ms. Booker and had urged her to help him contain any political fallout, but that the governor’s actions and those of other aides were not criminal.

Such was Mr. Johnson’s perceived power in the Paterson administration that a job offer from a Pennsylvania lobbyist came in within days of his suspension.

He did not accept the offer.

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