03/03/2010

NY police chief retires amid scandal

Superintendent Harry Corbitt retired amid scandal where he allegedly threatened Gov. David Paterson

By Michael Gormley and Valerie Bauman
The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. — The head of the New York State Police on Tuesday announced his abrupt retirement, becoming the second public safety official to depart amid an unfolding scandal threatening Gov. David Paterson and his administration.

Superintendent Harry Corbitt, who had retired once before and returned to service two years ago at Paterson's request, told an Albany television station that intense media scrutiny over the scandal was a factor in his planned departure Wednesday.

In February he acknowledged a state police official had contact with a woman who had accused a top aide to Gov. David Paterson of assaulting her on Halloween in New York City's Bronx borough. Soon after, the woman dropped the domestic violence complaint against the aide, David Johnson.

On Tuesday he talked about the pressures of being involved in the story.

"Any individual who is criticized constantly feels that pain," Corbitt said on the cable station Capital News 9. "And in most cases there is some way to fight back. But in public service there is not. I'm not an elected official; I'm a public servant, I'm a cop. And a good cop. So to continue to face that pressure, and even pressure from my family, the media showing up in my driveway - that's unacceptable. So for my own health and for my own sanity it's the right thing to do."

Corbitt's boss, Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell, resigned a week ago saying that direct contact by the governor and troopers with the woman was "unacceptable" regardless of their intent. At the time, she said Corbitt had assured her that state police were not involved in the investigation.

Paterson refused to comment on whether he had asked Corbitt to step down.

"I think that we'll move forward now and we will look to see who will be the best person to lead the state police," Paterson told reporters. "I think he worked very hard and he was helpful at this period."

There was no formal announcement.

Corbitt's return to retirement came on a day when Paterson faced the most damaging press reports yet and. Also Tuesday, the National Organization for Women called for his resignation even as he got some rare support by lawmakers. He also hinted that he will soon tell his side of the story in the scandal, which is being investigated by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs drove from Long Island on Tuesday to meet in the governor's mansion with Paterson and later said Paterson's account of his contact with the woman, along with the state police and staff members "explains an awful lot." He declined to divulge details.

"I did not get the sense that the governor is considering resignation, that resignation is pending," said Jacobs, a longtime friend of Paterson who owes his job to the governor. "There shouldn't be any more shoes to drop. The sense I got from him is there won't be."

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