NEW YORK (AFP) — Despite stepping down as New York governor over a sex scandal, Eliot Spitzer could still face charges relating to prostitution and suspicious bank transfers.
Spitzer, who dramatically announced his exit from public life Wednesday after reports emerged of his links to a high-end call girl ring, is alleged to have broken federal financial statutes in an effort to cover his tracks.
The US media has been full of speculation over whether the outgoing governor -- he formally steps down on Monday, who as attorney general was known for his pugnacious style in tackling crime, could find himself on the receiving end of the New York attorney's office.
According to Brad Simon, a former federal prosecutor and defense lawyer, Spitzer would likely end up being charged, even if his lawyers attempt to argue that he has already forfeited his career and lost his public standing.
"The fact that it's not just prostitution but that there are also financial violations makes it likely, in my opinion, that they will initiate some kind of prosecution," Simon told AFP, adding that even jail time was possible.
"These offenses carry prison terms. Whether or not he would end up going, that's a long way away," he said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday made a point of denying reports they had reached a deal with Spitzer under which he would quit in return for escaping prosecution.
"The fact that he's a soon-to-be former governor and was the New York state attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the state, means he clearly knew what he was doing," said Simon.
The situation, he said, puts prosecutors in a difficult position.
"On the one hand, his lawyers are going to be arguing that he's suffered enough, he's resigned in disgrace; on the other hand, the Justice Department wants to prosecute cases equally," he explained.
Attention also turned to whether the investigation into Spitzer, 48, could have been a politically-motivated move to bring down a high-profile supporter of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
"Most importantly, the investigators do not appear to be looking into a crime, they appear to be investigating Spitzer in the hopes of finding something compromising," The New Republic magazine said on its website.
The New York press, meanwhile, were having a field day with the more salacious details of the story, notably over the identity of the brunette prostitute identified in federal court papers as "Kristen."
The New York Times identified her as Ashley Alexandra Dupre, 22, an aspiring singer from New Jersey. "I just don't want to be thought of as a monster," Dupre was quoted as telling the newspaper.
"This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated."
Spitzer's resignation marked a stunning fall from grace for the former New York state attorney general once known as "Mr. Clean" for taking on organized crime and Wall Street corruption, and once seen as presidential material.
Spitzer seemed to rule out ever returning to public life in his resignation speech Wednesday, but revealed something of the idealist within.
"As I leave public life, I will first do what I need to do to help and heal myself and my family," a grim-faced Spitzer told reporters.
"Then I will try once again, outside of politics, to serve the common good and to move toward the ideals and solutions which I believe can build a future of hope and opportunity for us and for our children."
He is to formally hand over Monday to Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, 53, who will become the state's first black governor and the first blind governor in US history.
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