He may have lost his government job, but former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will not face prosecution for the scandal that drove him from office.
Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia announced Thursday that his office will not pursue criminal charges against Spitzer for any offense related to patronizing a high-end prostitution ring.
Spitzer resigned in March, only 15 months in to his first term, after being identified as "Client 9" of the Emperors Club VIP. According to a federal complaint against four people connected with the ring, Spitzer spent $4,300 for sex with a New York prostitute named "Kristen" at a Washington, D.C., hotel in February. The woman was later identified as Ashley Dupre.
Garcia said in a statement that Spitzer had acknowledged to his office that he was a patron of the prostitution ring.
According to Garcia, an investigation by the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service disclosed that Spitzer made payments through a bank account set up by the international prostitution ring in the name of QAT Consulting, which the U.S. Attorney said laundered more than $1 million.
However, Garcia said, "After a thorough investigation, this Office has uncovered no evidence of misuse of public or campaign funds. In addition, we have determined that there is insufficient evidence to bring changes against Spitzer for any offense related to the withdrawal of funds for, and his payments to, the Emperors Club VIP."
Garcia said the probe showed that Spitzer had arranged on several occasions for women with the escort service to travel across state lines to engage in prostitution, a violation of the little-used Mann Act.
But he said his office's "longstanding" practice of not charging individuals with soliciting prostitutes, the Justice Department's policy on prostitution offenses and Spitzer's acceptance of responsibility led him to conclude that "the public interest would not be furthered" by filing criminal charges.
The Justice Department policy states that under the Mann Act, 18 U.S.C. §2421-2424, "unless minors are victims," prosecutions "should generally be limited to persons engaged in commercial prosecution activities, even though commerciality is not an element of the offense."
Violators of the act face fines and/or up to 10 years in prison. In addition to criminal penalties, Spitzer, the son of a wealthy real estate developer, faced possible loss of his law license if indicted and convicted.
Thursday, Spitzer, a former Democratic Party star known for his combative style and aggressive tactics in pursuing Wall Street malfeasance, said in a statement: "I understand the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has decided that it will not bring criminal charges against me. I appreciate the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office, and I acknowledge and accept responsibility for the conduct it disclosed. I resigned my position as Governor because I recognized that 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."
Spitzer's attorneys, including Michele Hirshman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, declined to comment Thursday and steered all calls to a public relations firm.
Spitzer himself was said to be traveling and unavailable for further comment.
Garcia's office won guilty pleas from Mark Brener, who ran the club; Cecil Suwal, his lieutenant; and booking agents Tanya Hollander and Temeka Lewis.
Three of the four pleaded guilty to prostitution conspiracy or promoting prostitution, and money laundering. Hollander pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiring to violate the federal Travel Act, 18 U.S. Code §1952, which makes it a crime to transport someone across state lines for prostitution.
Hollander's lawyer, Michael Farkas, said at the time of her Aug. 25 plea that Spitzer should be "charged like anyone else."
"I consider Spitzer to be at the very least a co-conspirator and, at any federal sentencing, the judge considers the disposition of co-conspirators when determining the appropriate sentence," Farkas said in an interview Thursday. "In this case, Spitzer, who I believe to be the much more egregious actor than my client, has not been charged while my client is facing jail time. Obviously, I consider this to be an inequity that should be remedied at sentencing."
Hollander is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 25. The maximum penalty for a violation of the Traffic Act is five years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines range for Hollander is six to 12 months behind bars.
A Mann Act charge against the former governor would have posed difficulties for prosecutors.
Given the fact that the act is not usually invoked against people who pay for prostitutes unless a minor is involved, Garcia, the appointee of a Republican president, would have faced criticism that an indictment of Spitzer was politically motivated.
Moreover, concerns about such criticism might have required the office to pursue criminal charges against other men who have hired the service and were implicated in the investigation.
Elkan Abramowitz of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer, who headed the Criminal Division in the Southern District from 1976 to 1977, said Thursday he could not recall a single instance of a Mann Act prosecution in the district.
"I am really not surprised at the U.S. Attorney's decision because once it was determined that they had no evidence of misuse of state or campaign funds, the normal policy against prosecuting Mann Act cases was followed," said Abramowitz, who was not involved in this case.