Governor Paterson will drop his election bid, according to the AP's Democratic sources, and is expected to make an announcement later this morning. But during a short press conference last night (video below), Paterson insisted he has no plans to step down or suspend his campaign in light of Wednesday night's revelation that he interfered in an aide's domestic violence imbroglio. Explaining that the matter is now in the hands of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the governor declined to answer any specific questions about allegations that he called the ex-girlfriend of aide David Johnson the day before she dropped her legal action against him. But Paterson told reporters he is "talking to a number of elected officials around the state" to seek "their opinion." That opinion is not specifically too good:

  • "Everyone with a brain wants him to suspend the campaign, no question about that," a Paterson campaign source tells the Post, and according to the Times, "a range of political allies and even some close friends urged Mr. Paterson privately and publicly to end his bid for election."
  • Rev. Al Sharpton called a meeting with black and Hispanic leaders "to assess how do we go forward and whether we can go forward with the governor," a source tells the Times Union.
  • Albany County Democratic Chairman Dan McCoy says, "Forget about running for governor—I don't see how he could stay as governor. If this is true and it's showed that he's involved in this cover-up, he should step aside."
  • "This is a fatal blow, and it will probably only get worse," said State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat from Harlem who holds Mr. Paterson’s former seat. "I just think that it’s clear that this is a storm he has to step away from."

Meanwhile, some legal experts question whether Cuomo should lead the investigation or recuse himself. "It puts the attorney general in the spot of being both the chief law enforcement officer in the state and someone who also has a political interest," law Professor Richard Briffault tells the Times. "So he has to be very careful. It’s going to require a lot of delicacy on his part." And Dick Dadey, at the Citizens Union watchdog group says, "If there ever was a case where it might be appropriate to have an independent prosecutor appointed to look into something, this might be it." But Walter Ayres, a spokesman for the state Commission on Public Integrity, says there's no conflict of interest... yet: "As a matter of law, the attorney general currently is not a candidate, and we can’t make decisions based on what might happen in the future."

During what must have been an extremely awkward phone call Wednesday night, Paterson instructed Cuomo, his presumptive rival for Governor, to investigate whether Johnson, a State Police officer, and Paterson himself had improperly contacted the woman pursuing domestic violence charges against Johnson. A source tells the Post that Maj. Charles Day, the head of Paterson's security detail, was the one who reached out personally to the woman, who has been identified by the tabloids as Sherr-una Booker, a worker at a Bronx hospital. The source added that it's "inconceivable that David [Paterson] didn't know about it. It's the head of his own detail."

Yesterday, Paterson denied calling the woman, and insisted she called him in order to explain that she was not the one behind salacious rumors circulating about Paterson. Booker's lawyer has since clarified their side of the story: He tells the Times, "the woman was called, unbidden, by a female intermediary on behalf of Mr. Paterson on February 7th and told that the governor wanted her to call him, which she did." The lawyer says the call lasted about a minute, did not touch on those rumors, and concluded with Paterson remarking, "If you need me, I’m here for you." The next day she did not appear in Family Court, and the case was dismissed.

More details have emerged about the alleged assault that took place on Halloween. According to the Post, Johnson walked into the bedroom as Booker and a friend were getting dressed for a party, and immediately flew into a rage over Booker's costume. And The Daily News gives the scene that special tabloid touch:

Six-foot-seven and powerful, Johnson grabbed Booker by the neck with one hand - and tore off her outfit with the other. Slamming Booker on a mirrored dresser, Johnson growled at the other woman to get out, "if you know what's good for you," the sources said. When Booker tried to call the cops, Johnson ripped the phone out of the screaming woman's hand. He grabbed the other phone in the home - preventing the women from calling the cops - and bolted.

By the time cops arrived on at 9:50 p.m., Johnson was gone. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne tells the News, "She didn't have visible injuries. We took the harassment report." But Booker told court officials she had bruising on her arms, and sought an order of protection against Johnson, which was never served. Within 24 hours, she was contacted by the head of Paterson's security detail.

Yesterday Denise O'Donnell, state Commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and Deputy Secretary for Public Safety, resigned over the matter, and accused State Police Superintendent Henry Corbitt of misleading her by assuring her in January that the State Police were not involved. But according to the AP, Corbitt denies misleading O'Donnell and explained "that he told her state police weren't involved in the investigation, not that they hadn't contacted the woman." See, there's a subtle difference!

O'Donnell said in a statement, "The fact that the governor and members of the state police have acknowledged direct contact with a woman who had filed for an order of protection against a senior member of the governor's staff is a very serious matter. These actions are unacceptable regardless of their intent."