NEW YORK — Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who built a national reputation as an aggressive, uncompromising prosecutor, apologized to the public Monday after a federal wiretap caught him allegedly arranging to meet a high-priced prostitute in a Washington hotel.
The recording captured a man identified as "Client 9" -- a regular customer of an elite international call-girl ring -- setting up a date with a petite brunet who used the name "Kristen." A source familiar with the case identified the Democratic governor as Client 9.
As the public -- and his fellow politicians -- reacted with shock and outrage, Spitzer strode to a lectern in Manhattan, his arm around his wife, Silda. Both looked deeply shaken, but Spitzer delivered his brief remarks in a crisp, steady tone as Silda stood, stone-faced, at his side.
"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family, that violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong," he said.
Spitzer, who has three teenage daughters, has not been charged. He spoke for one minute and did not elaborate on his actions.
But plenty of salacious details emerged in court documents filed last week when federal prosecutors indicted four people they accused of being ringleaders in the Emperors Club VIP, which advertised companions with "beauty, elegance, erudition, and educational standing."
An FBI affidavit describes a wiretapped conversation in which Client 9 told a call-ring booking agent that he had sent a deposit for the tryst by mail, with no return address, "same as in the past, no question about it." A delivery delay almost derailed his Feb. 13 date with Kristen. The money finally arrived, however, and the transaction continued.
One of the club's booking agents told Kristen that she had heard that the client "would ask you to do things that, like, you might not think were safe," according to the affidavit.
Kristen replied: "I have a way of dealing with that. . . . I'd be like, 'Listen, dude, you really want the sex?' "
The client allegedly paid for Kristen to take a train from New York to Washington, where he was staying that evening. Transporting prostitutes across state lines is a felony under the 1910 federal Mann Act.
The FBI intercepted calls and text messages in which Client 9 promised to leave his hotel door open so Kristen could enter without having to ask the front desk for a key. He assured the booking agent that he would pay her cab fare and hotel minibar charges and asked for a reminder about Kristen's looks. The agent told him she was American and "very pretty," at 5 feet, 5 inches and 105 pounds.
The affidavit said that Kristen spent about two hours with Client 9. She collected the remainder of her fee, about $2,700, from him. He also paid an additional $1,600 as a deposit for future services from the Emperors Club.
At midnight, Kristen called the Emperors Club to report that the date was over. "I don't think he's difficult," Kristen told the agent. "I know what my purpose is. . . . I know what I do."
In the morning, Spitzer testified before a congressional finance committee about the bond insurance industry.
The Emperors Club VIP ranked its prostitutes on a scale of one to seven diamonds, with the most elite women charging $5,500 an hour. Booking agents reassured clients that wire transfers and credit-card transactions would show up on billing records as being paid to a shell company called QAT Consulting.
Advertising online with photos of lingerie-clad women -- no faces visible -- the club is alleged to have attracted wealthy clients across the U.S. and overseas. "Two A+ in a row," one satisfied client told a booking agent. "I don't know where you get these young ladies."
Emperors Club prostitutes regularly worked in Los Angeles, Miami, London and Paris as well as New York and Washington, according to court documents. (Though the affidavit detailed one tryst at the Beverly Hills Hotel, business wasn't great in Los Angeles: One booking agent complained to her boss, "I don't know if, if you're going to be advertising but . . . it's just been really, really slow in L.A. . . . We have a lot of girls there now. . . . We need calls.")
On Thursday, the U.S. attorney's office in the southern district of New York unsealed charges against a man and three women accused of running the Emperors Club. All four were charged with conspiracy to violate federal prostitution standards. Two were also charged with conspiracy to launder more than $1 million in illicit proceeds.
The arrests generated few headlines nationally until Monday, when the New York Times reported Spitzer's involvement on its website.
"I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself," Spitzer said, biting his lip as he faced a crowd of media.
He rushed out of the room as reporters shouted after him: "Are you resigning?"