Sex scandal passes but Spitzer may face legal woes

NEW YORK Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:09pm EDT

1 of 32. A photo of Ashley Alexandra Dupre from a myspace.com dated Vegas 2006.

Credit: Reuters/myspace.com

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Resigning over reports he paid for a $1,000-an-hour prostitute, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer leaves behind his political post but could face legal trouble from the stunning sex scandal.

Spitzer, who fought malfeasance on Wall Street with publicity-conscious vigor, fell from grace after The New York Times reported this week that his conversations to arrange for an expensive call girl in a Washington hotel were caught on a federal wiretap.

"The remorse I feel will always be with me," a grim-faced Spitzer, 48, said as he resigned on Wednesday with his wife by his side.

Indeed, his legal worries are likely far from over.

Spitzer, who came into office in 2007 promising to clean up state politics, faces the possibility of federal criminal charges over how he may have paid for prostitution services, specifically charges of structuring, which entail payments made so as to conceal their purpose and source.

Another violation may involve money laundering, if payments made to the suspected prostitution ring's shell corporations are found to be part of a larger conspiracy, legal experts said.

Legal observers speculated Spitzer was seeking to reach a deal to avoid or reduce any criminal liability before he left office. On Wednesday, the top federal prosecutor in New York said there was no such deal.

Prostitution is illegal in most U.S. states, but clients are rarely prosecuted and he is unlikely to face such charges.

But because he allegedly paid for the prostitute to travel to Washington from New York, he may have violated the Mann Act that bans interstate transport to engage in prostitution.

The Times reported on its Web site the prostitute was a 22-year-old woman who had left home in New Jersey at 17, originally hoping for a career as a singer in New York.

"I just don't want to be thought of as a monster," the woman told the newspaper.

It said she had been born Ashley Youmans but now is known as Ashley Alexandra Dupre, and that she was expected to be a witness in the case against four people charged with operating a prostitution ring. It said she had not been charged.

Political woes also may follow. Spitzer feuded with the state Senate's top Republican, Joseph Bruno, who claimed that Spitzer used the state police to spy on him.

On Thursday, attorneys were due in state court for a hearing on Spitzer's efforts to block further state Senate investigation into the matter. An earlier probe by the state attorney general was highly critical of Spitzer's administration.

It's a stunning change of fortune for Spitzer, who in his previous post as the state's chief prosecutor aggressively pursued wrongdoing on Wall Street. His disgrace was cheered by some financial power brokers who resented what they considered his heavy-handed and self-righteous ways.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta, Emily Chasan, Caroline Valetkevitch, Vivianne Rodriguez, Christine Kearney, Joan Gralla and Edith Honan; Editing by Eric Beech)

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