NEW YORK – Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in disgrace Wednesday after getting caught in a prostitution scandal that shattered his corruption-fighting, straight-arrow image, saying: “I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people’s work.”Spitzer made the announcement without having finalized a plea deal with federal prosecutors, though a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said he is believed to still be negotiating one.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
“Over the course of my public life, I’ve insisted, I think correctly, that people regardless of their position or power take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself,” Spitzer said at a Manhattan news conference with his wife, Silda, at his side. He left without answering questions.
Spitzer will be replaced on Monday by Lt. Gov. David Paterson, who becomes New York’s first black governor. He also will be the state’s first legally blind governor and its first disabled governor since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Paterson said in a statement that he was saddened, but would move forward. “It is now time for Albany to get back to work as the people of this state expect from us,” he said.
Spitzer’s dramatic fall began Monday when allegations surfaced that the 48-year-old father of three was the man identified in court papers as “Client-9,” who spent thousands of dollars on a call girl named Kristen at a swanky Washington hotel on the night before Valentine’s Day. Later details leaked from investigators alleged he was a repeat customer who spent as much as $80,000 with the high-priced prostitution service over an extended period of time.
Spitzer was more composed than he was earlier in the week, when he apologized for an undisclosed personal failing and looked pale, drawn and glassy-eyed. His wife took deep breaths as each of Spitzer’s words was accompanied by a rush of camera clicks. She glanced in his direction, but they did not touch.
“I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been,” Spitzer said.
Spitzer’s resignation came after two days of furious calls for him to step down. Republican leaders had threatened to file impeachment papers if he didn’t step aside by the end of Wednesday.
The case started when banks noticed frequent cash transfers from several accounts and filed suspicious activity reports with the Internal Revenue Service, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The accounts were traced back to Spitzer, leading public corruption investigators to open an inquiry.
Whether U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor, who prosecutes federal and local laws in the District of Columbia, will bring charges against Spitzer likely depends on the plea deal the governor is negotiating with the government in New York, two senior law enforcement officials said.