Gov. Spitzer linked to call girl

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer arrives with his wife at his New York City apartment Monday. Spitzer, who built his career on rooting out corruption, apologized after he was accused of involvement in a prostitution ring. Louis Lanzano, The Associated Press

AP

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer arrives with his wife at his New York City apartment Monday. Spitzer, who built his career on rooting out corruption, apologized after he was accused of involvement in a prostitution ring. Louis Lanzano, The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK – Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s political career teetered on the brink of collapse Monday after the corruption-fighting politician once known as “Mr. Clean” was accused of paying for sex with a high-priced call girl.

The scandal drew immediate calls for the Democrat to step down. At a news conference before about 100 reporters, a glassy-eyed Spitzer, his shellshocked wife at his side, apologized to his family and the people of New York.

But he gave no details of what he was sorry for, did not discuss his political future and ignored shouted questions about whether he would resign.

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself,” said the 48-year-old father of three teenage girls. “I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet at a Washington hotel room with a prostitute from a call-girl business known as the Emperors Club VIP, according to a law enforcement official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still going on.

The governor has not been charged, and prosecutors would not comment on the case.

The scandal came 16 months after Spitzer stormed into the governor’s office with a historic margin of victory, vowing to root out corruption in New York government in the same way that he took on Wall Street executives with a vengeance while state attorney general.

But his first year in office was marred by turmoil, and the latest scandal raised questions about whether he would make it through a second year.

Democratic Lt. Gov. David Paterson would become New York’s first black governor if Spitzer were to resign.

The allegations were outlined in papers filed in federal court in New York. The governor, identified in the papers only as “Client 9,” met last month with a woman in a Washington hotel the day before Valentine’s Day.

A defendant in the case, Temeka Rachelle Lewis, told a prostitute identified only as “Kristen” that she should take a train from New York to Washington for an encounter with Client No. 9 on the night of Feb. 13, according to a complaint. The defendant confirmed that the client would be “paying for everything – train tickets, cab fare from the hotel and back, mini bar or room service, travel time, and hotel.”

The prostitute, described in the complaint as a “petite, pretty brunette, 5-feet-5 inches, and 105 pounds,” met the client in Room 871 at about 10 p.m., according to the complaint. He paid $4,300 in cash, with some being used for the encounter and the rest apparently to be used for credit for future trysts, according to the papers.

When discussing how the payments would be arranged, Client 9 told Lewis: “Yup, same as in the past, no question about it” – suggesting Client 9 had done this before.

According to court papers, an Emperor’s Club agent was told by the prostitute that her evening with Client 9 went well.

The prostitution ring arranged sex between wealthy men and more than 50 prostitutes in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris, prosecutors said.

The club’s Web site displays photographs of scantily clad women with their faces hidden. It also shows hourly rates depending on whether the prostitutes were rated from one diamond to seven diamonds. The highest-ranked prostitutes cost $5,500 an hour, prosecutors said.

The scandal was bad news not only for Spitzer but for the entire Democratic party in New York. Spitzer went into 2008 intent on taking back the state Senate from the Republicans.

Spitzer clashed with Wall Street executives throughout his two terms as attorney general, launching several prosecutions that rocked major companies earlier this decade.

He became known as the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” Time magazine named him “Crusader of the Year,” and the tabloids proclaimed him “Eliot Ness.” The square-jawed graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law was sometimes mentioned as a potential candidate for president.

His cases as attorney general included a few criminal prosecutions of prostitution rings and tourism involving prostitutes. In 2004, he took part in an investigation of an escort service in New York City that resulted in the arrest of 18 people on charges of promoting prostitution and related charges.

Associated Press Writer Mike Gormley contributed to this report