By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 7, 2008
Former New York governor Eliot L. Spitzer will not face criminal charges for his role in a prostitution scandal that drove him from office this year, prosecutors announced yesterday.
Investigators for the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service uncovered no evidence that Spitzer had misused public or campaign money to pay women employed by the Emperors Club VIP, a high-priced New York prostitution ring.
Justice Department guidelines disfavor indictments against clients of prostitution rings, even those who transport women across state lines to have sex in violation of the Mann Act. Spitzer acknowledged making payments to the service, which amounted to "acceptance of responsibility for his conduct," said Michael J. Garcia, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
"We have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter," he said in a statement issued yesterday.
In all, four people connected to the Emperors Club as bookers and organizers pleaded guilty to criminal offenses for their roles in the scandal. Authorities looked closely at building a case against Spitzer based on his withdrawals of money and his payments to a shell company called QAT Consulting Group. But they ultimately determined that there was "insufficient evidence" to proceed against him, Garcia said.
Spitzer, a Democrat who had crusaded against Wall Street abuses as New York's attorney general, encountered a rockier path in Albany, where he clashed with the Republican majority leader and even members of his own political camp.
In recent months, Spitzer receded from public view, working at his father's real estate investment company and maintaining an unusual silence for a man who once dominated the headlines and used his office as a bully pulpit. Behind the scenes, defense attorneys Theodore V. Wells Jr. and Michele Hirshman provided financial data to prosecutors in an effort to persuade them to drop the case.
Yesterday, Spitzer made a statement through a New York public relations firm saying that he appreciated "the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation."
"I resigned my position as governor because I recognized that my conduct was unworthy of an elected official. I once again apologize for my actions, and for the pain and disappointment those actions caused my family and the many people who supported me during my career in public life," he said.
The disclosure in March that Spitzer was "Client-9" in a seamy affidavit involving an international prostitution operation set off a media firestorm. Room 871 of Washington's Mayflower Hotel, where Spitzer had a rendezvous with prostitute Ashley Alexandra Dupre in February, became a minor tourist attraction. FBI agents previously had trailed Spitzer to the hotel in an unsuccessful effort to catch him in the act.
Don Buchwald, an attorney for Dupre, said yesterday that she is "pleased the matter is behind her."
Prosecutors said their investigation began as an effort to determine whether the governor was engaged in public corruption. They noticed unusual payments from Spitzer into the QAT Consulting bank account, an account that had been used to launder more than $1 million from the prostitution ring.
Investigators obtained wiretaps in which Spitzer and other customers arranged liaisons with women, sometimes paying more than $4,000 per night.
Spitzer resigned in the middle of his first gubernatorial term, at a news conference in which his wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, stood gravely by his side.
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.