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Gov May Face Criminal Charges Over Yankee Tix Snafu

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- A special investigator said Thursday Gov. David Paterson gave misleading testimony about getting free tickets to a Yankees World Series game last fall.

And he could face criminal charges, reports CBS 2's Marcia Kramer.

Getting five free tickets to see the Bronx Bombers play in the World Series may prove to be a very costly mistake for the governor.

A special prosecutor working for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Paterson issued "inaccurate and misleading" testimony on whether he was going to pay for the tickets, which each cost $425. The report details how before Game 1, Paterson's office sent a letter to the Yankees saying he was "attending on official business" and "tickets would not be paid for."

And the case is now being referred to the Albany district attorney.

The Paterson camp released a statement on Thursday night which said: "The Governor did not lie when he testified about the Yankee tickets, and the report does not recommend the bringing of criminal charges or conclude that the governor intended to give false or misleading testimony.  We are therefore hopeful that D.A. Soares will ultimately conclude that no criminal charges are warranted."

A state trooper singing the national anthem at the state fair in Syracuse on Thursday could have been a flashback for Gov. Paterson. It was sung at Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. But that memory could now turn into a nightmare for the governor because state law prohibits freebies.

In the stinging report, independent counsel Judith Kaye said: "Evidence indicates that his decision to pay for the tickets for his son and his son's friend was made following a press inquiry the day after the game."

Read the full Kaye report here

Kaye added the governor also misled investigators about his claim that he brought a check to the game to pay for the tickets. CBS 2's Sean Hennessey reports the investigation found "the check was not in Paterson's handwriting" and had been backdated.

"It does look really bad and that's where it does get Nixonian, where the cover-up feels much more significant than the crime, even though the crime is a clear violation," said Susan Lerner, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause New York.

Lerner said Paterson should have admitted he mistakenly violated the state's public gift law, instead of "putting out various different stories? That's where the problem comes from."

For Paterson, the most damming finding was this: that "the evidence... warrants consideration of possible criminal charges by the district attorney."

Ironically, Paterson contended he did nothing wrong.

"I feel that when the facts are displayed and the truth comes out I will be vindicated," Paterson said earlier this year.

So now the governor has to sit on the edge of his seat waiting to see if the Albany DA brings criminal charges.

A spokesman for the DA said the case is under review.

A state ethics commission recommended last week that the governor be fined more than $90,000 in civil penalties.

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