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by Jay Gallagher

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top State Cop steps down

State Police Superintendent Harry Corbitt said in an interview aired tonight that he is retiring effective tomorrow, becoming the second high-ranking state law-enforcement official to leave office in the wake of the domestic-violence scandal in the Paterson administration.

Corbitt, who served less than two years as the state’s top cop, has been in the center of the storm over whether his subordinates and other administration officials pressured a Bronx woman to back off charges of domestic abuse against David Johnston, a top aide to Gov. David Paterson. Paterson has suspended Johnson while a probe is underway.

Corbitt’s retirement follows last week’s resignation of Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise O'Donnell, who blamed Corbitt for misleading her about the involvement of troopers in the incident.

Corbitt complained in the interview to air on Time Warner Channel 9 in Albany that he is being unfairly attacked by the media and others and felt powerless to defend himself.

"Any individual who is criticized constantly feels that pain. And in most cases there is some way to fight back,’’ he says in the interview. “But in public service there is not.’’

Corbitt, the first African-American to head the State Police, climbed the organization’s ladder before retiring as a colonel in 2004. Paterson asked him to come back as superintendent in March of 2008.

His leaving is the latest bit of news that increases the pressure on Paterson to quit. He has said he intends to serve out his term and has done nothing wrong. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating what role if any Paterson had in urging the woman to drop her complaint against Johnson.

The New York Times reported today that two female members of the administration contacted the woman at the behest of the governor.

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