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Troubled NY governor won't run for full term

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Paterson won't seek full term
  • NEW: Gov. David Paterson cites "accumulation" of obstacles
  • Scandal surrounds reports that aide involved in domestic violence
  • Reports said state police pressured alleged victim to stay quiet
  • Paterson has asked attorney general to investigate police conduct

New York (CNN) -- New York Gov. David Paterson said Friday that he will not seek election to a full term in office.

"There are times in politics when you have to know not to strive for service but to step back," he said.

He said it was not the "latest distraction but an accumulation" of obstacles that were behind his decision not to be a candidate in the November election. He did not elaborate.

News reports have emerged that a Paterson aide was involved in domestic violence incident with a woman and that state police later pressured her to keep quiet. Paterson has asked New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a possible contender for the governor's office, to investigate the matter.

"It has become increasingly clear to me in the last few days that I cannot run for office and try to manage the state's business at the same time," Paterson said.

He denied any wrongdoing: "I have never abused my office, not now, not ever."

He vowed to spend the remainder of his time in office -- 308 days, he said -- "fighting for the people of the state of New York."

Paterson has suspended the aide, David Johnson, without pay. He said Friday that he is looking forward to a full investigation of his and his administration's actions.

"I believe that when the facts are reviewed, the truth will prevail," he said.

Johnson, a one-time driver for Paterson who later became one of the governor's closest aides, has been accused of several acts of wrongdoing in a series of stories by The New York Times.

He has not been charged with a crime. Efforts to reach him and his attorney have been unsuccessful.

The New York Times reported that New York State Police contacted the person who allegedly accused Johnson of domestic violence to encourage her to abandon efforts to seek a protective order against Johnson. The newspaper quoted Lawrence Saftler, a lawyer for the alleged victim, whom the newspaper did not identify. Saftler did not return calls from CNN.

Video: Scandal over Paterson aide

The New York Times also quoted Saftler as saying that the governor personally contacted the alleged victim. The lawyer said the conversation lasted about a minute and the governor asked how she was doing, the newspaper reported.

Through a spokesman, the governor told The New York Times that the woman initiated the phone call and declined to answer further questions.

In a statement released Thursday, the state police said the attorney general requested that it not conduct an internal investigation into the matter.

"The state police will fully cooperate with the attorney general's office and their investigation," the statement said. "Further, it would be inappropriate at this time for the state police to comment in any way about this case while the attorney general's investigation is ongoing."

On Thursday, New York Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O'Donnell abruptly resigned amid a burgeoning scandal over reports that a Paterson aide was involved in domestic violence incident with a woman and that state police later pressured her to keep quiet.

In announcing her resignation, O'Donnell said, "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."

She said State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt told her in January that a senior administration staff member had been involved in an incident months earlier and that a domestic incident report was filed.

Corbitt said the staff member had an argument with his girlfriend and there was no arrest, O'Donnell said.

The police superintendent told her that "the matter was being handled as a local police matter by the New York Police Department," O'Donnell said.

"My immediate concern was what role the state police would take in the investigation, and I was assured by Superintendent Corbitt that the state police were not involved," she said. "It was only last night when I learned from press reports the contrary details, including the involvement of the state police.

"For these reasons, I am resigning my position as commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services and deputy secretary of public safety, effective today."

Corbitt said he did not dispute O'Donnell's account of what he told her. However, he said, he "provided Deputy Secretary O'Donnell with factually correct information, but the conclusions she appeared to draw from these statements were incorrect."

He said that state police were not involved in the investigation into the incident with Johnson and that he was confident that the attorney general's investigation will "quickly reveal the nature of the contact between a state police official and the woman involved."

The New York Times has reported on other allegations of wrongdoing by Johnson from when he was a teenager.

Paterson had defended Johnson before the most recent allegations. This month, he told CNN that The New York Times chose to "splash" Johnson's "youthful offenses across the pages of its newspaper. ... I profoundly believe in this principle of redemption and giving young people a second chance."

Paterson became governor in 2008, after a sex scandal prompted then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer to resign. He is New York's first African-American governor and the fourth in U.S. history.

He is legally blind, and although documentation is scarce, it is widely believed that he is the nation's first blind governor.

He was elected to the New York state Senate in 1985, representing the 30th District, encompassing Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side.

In November 2002, Paterson was elected New York Senate minority leader. He addressed the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as the U.S. Conference of Mayors that same year.