FBI Watched Spitzer Before February Incident
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
NEW YORK, March 11 -- Weeks before a hotel meeting with a prostitute that threatens to derail his career, the FBI staked out New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer at the same hotel in an unsuccessful effort to catch him with a high-priced call girl, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.
The FBI placed a surveillance team on Spitzer at the Mayflower Hotel for the first time on Jan. 26, after concluding from a wiretapped conversation that he might try to meet with a prostitute when he traveled to Washington to attend a black-tie dinner, the source said Tuesday.
As new details emerged about the extent of the FBI's surveillance of Spitzer, the embattled governor spent the day secluded with his family and also met with a few close aides and his lawyers in his Fifth Avenue apartment, weighing whether to resign and facing calls for his impeachment if he does not.
Spitzer, a Democratic rising star and married father of three girls, was identified by a law enforcement source as the anonymous "Client-9" in court papers who paid for a prostitute to travel from New York to Washington on Feb. 13 to meet him at a hotel. It was later identified as the Mayflower, the same hotel the FBI had staked out in January.
The court papers, including details of wiretapped conversations, suggested that Spitzer was a regular client of the escort service, known as the Emperors Club VIP.
There was widespread speculation, some reported in local media, that he would resign Tuesday afternoon, and the state capital of Albany has been in a surreal state of limbo, with politicians from both parties thinking a resignation is imminent. Spitzer would be replaced by Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson, a Harlem Democrat.
"I don't know what the mechanics are, what the deliberations are, " said state Sen. Bill Perkins (D), also of Harlem. "I know it's inevitable there's going to be a change. . . . I'm anxious to get it done. David is going to be the new leader, and I'm anxious for that to get in place."
James Tedisco, the leader of the Republican minority in the State Assembly, said he had already spoken to Paterson about the transition and promised that "he'll have our full support." Tedisco said if Spitzer did not resign within 48 hours, he was readying impeachment articles to try to force him out of office.
Spitzer has not been charged with any crime, and in a brief statement Monday offered only a vague apology for unspecified actions. But state officials said the governor may have left himself vulnerable by paying for the prostitute's transportation to Washington -- a possible federal crime under the Mann Act -- as well as possibly using state funds for trips to meet with prostitutes and making his police guards complicit in the behavior.
Various legal and political analysts said they thought the governor was considering his legal jeopardy as part of his decision on whether to resign. Spitzer has hired a lawyer, Michele Hirshman, from a prominent New York firm.
The January stakeout at the Mayflower came roughly two weeks after a federal judge authorized investigators to intercept the escort service's telephone calls and text messages.
A team of agents from New York and Washington was hurriedly dispatched to the hotel after an escort service employee was heard on a wiretap calling the front desk to say that flowers were being sent to Spitzer and wanting to confirm that he would be there, said a source knowledgeable about the investigation who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.