NYC political anchor takes bizarre fall from grace

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2009 10:17 PM

Big political names abound in New York: Mario Cuomo. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Rudy Giuliani. And for political climbers seeking a stage in the media, a platform to join or displace the powerhouses, the man to go through for years was Dominic Carter _ until last month.

Carter, a longtime political anchor for New York City's cable news channel with influence that spread well beyond the nation's largest city, recently took a far, fast fall in a bizarre cascade of events that began last month when charges that he beat his wife became public.

That led to his being pulled off the air by managers at NY1; revelations of contentious workplace behavior; his wife's recantation of the abuse allegation and a new story that a day laborer beat her; and dubious reports that he was considering suicide. A judge could rule this week on the domestic assault case after papers are filed Thursday.

This from a man photographed with Donald Trump and Caroline Kennedy and once introduced by "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer as the person most likely to have his finger on the story about Kennedy's prospects of becoming a U.S. senator.

Carter did not respond to an e-mail or answer his doorbell in attempts to seek comment for this story, and his home phone is unlisted.

The morning after Mayor Michael Bloomberg won re-election to a third term Nov. 3, a pile of newspapers lay untouched in the driveway outside the house belonging to the 46-year-old Carter. For the first time since 1992, he wasn't around to work because of the leave of absence he had taken five days earlier.

Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor at New York City's Hunter College, called Carter a "kind of an iconic figure in that if you're a political junkie or you're active in politics, or for that matter if you want to be an informed citizen, there wasn't much choice other than to watch 'Inside City Hall' every night."

Carter was pulled off the air the day of his Oct. 29 hearing and hasn't come back.

"We have no plans for him to return since he has personal issues to resolve," NY1's general manager, Steve Paulus, said shortly after Carter's departure.

But he said Tuesday that "we're awaiting a final resolution. Dominic hasn't been convicted of anything yet."

His sudden demise interrupted a career that made him a familiar face on New York City television and gave him influence in city and state politics. He had been with NY1 since it was launched in 1992 and had interviewed every major New York politician.

The nightly "Inside City Hall" was "watched by the people who watched politics, who were in the know or wanted to be in the know," said Douglas Muzzio, a politics professor at Baruch College.

Carter "always seemed like a street kid and had a street kid's sensibility and a street kid's nose for bull," Muzzio said.

Though Carter projected a certain image on camera, his personal history wasn't always so controlled. In 2007, he described childhood abuse at the hands of his mentally ill mother while growing up in the Bronx in a memoir called "No Momma's Boy."

And turmoil apparently carried over into his workplace relationships. Paulus acknowleged that "there have been incidents involving many employees" at the newsroom with Carter, but he wouldn't say whether the arguments grew physical.

"I'm not saying Dominic didn't, but I'm not attaching any importance to it," Paulus said. "It's a newsroom."

Carter bragged about his political connections during the assault case at a hearing in December as he sought a quick dismissal.

"I covered the state attorney general and chief judge of the court of the state of New York," he told Ramapo Town Justice Arnold Etelson, according to a court transcript. He also called former state Chief Judge Judith Kaye and Manhattan District Attorney Bob Morgenthau "personal friends."

The assault complaint by Carter's wife of 24 years, Marilyn, was more than a year old when it was first publicized. Carter said then that prosecutors had leaked the complaint because they were about to lose the case.

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"I am about to be vindicated," Carter said. "This was all a misunderstanding."

Assistant District Attorney Richard Moran played a 911 tape on which Marilyn Carter told police that her husband "hit me several times in my face, my back, my stomach, all over my body."

He showed the judge photos of her swollen lip, cut ear and a bruised arm and leg. The policeman who answered her call testified her clothing contained drops of blood.

Marilyn Carter recanted the charge, saying that a day laborer whose name she couldn't remember beat her instead. She said she told police her husband had beat her because she was angry about an argument they had about care for their epileptic son.

The prosecutor suggested she was lying to preserve her marriage and her husband's livelihood.

When the judge said he would reserve decision, Carter complained from the defense table, pleading that unless he was quickly cleared, "My career is over."

On the weekend after the trial, they traveled to Kansas City, Mo., and someone identified as a family member called the hotel, supposedly fearing Carter was considering suicide.

Carter told police he was fine but said his wife was missing. She was found the next day at the Kansas City airport and said she simply wanted to get home early, a police spokesman said.

"Inside City Hall" has continued with replacements for Carter. Sherrill said he'll miss Carter's "good sense of theater, as well as his good sense of politics."

"He was a rather aggressive interrogator," Sherrill said. "You'd hear his voice booming out, 'Are you telling me ... ?' and you'd know he thought it was something surprising or shocking or newsworthy."

(This version CORRECTS attribution in 17th graf to Carter instead of Paulus.)