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Judge pleads guilty, resigns in Pigeon probe

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News pool photos taken by Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News
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New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be in Buffalo Thursday with more details about the ongoing investigation into political operative Steve Pigeon.  On Wednesday, State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek  entered a guilty plea to taking a bribe and filing a false instrument.

Michalek appeared before State Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio Jr. of Syracuse.

"Well it is a very sad day for our community when a jurist, an elected Supreme Court Justice, who was, by all accounts respected by both the attorneys of our community and his peers, demonstrates that he has betrayed the trust given to him by us," stated Acting Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty.

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Credit News pool photos taken by Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News
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State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek appears on the other side of the bench.

The judge was expected to resign from his post immediately after his plea.  A Buffalo News report also indicates that Pigeon is expected to be charged in the case Thursday morning.  This has been part of a joint state and federal probe. It began in 2014 investigating Pigeon's political fundraising activities.

Flaherty met with reporters late Wednesday afternoon to reacting to the development. 

The District Attorney did not confirm information about Pigeon. "It's premature for me to speculate on what that means," replied Flaherty. 

However, sources indicated that Pigeon's name was mentioned in court papers.

Flaherty said Michalek  pleaded guilty to two felonies for improperly using his influence as a judge.

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Credit News pool photos taken by Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News
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State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek appears on the other side of the bench.

"He agreed to do a function of a Supreme Court Justice outside the proper protocol for that in exchange for a benefit," Flaherty said.  

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is scheduled to appear in Buffalo Thursday at 1 p.m. to make an announcement. 

Schneiderman issued the following statement on the  public corruption proceedings:

“Today’s proceedings expose a corrupt, multiyear scheme to use political favors to buy off a sitting state judge. We will continue to root out public corruption wherever we find it. Our public corruption investigation is ongoing.”

Flaherty told reporters he commends Schneiderman for taking action.   

Last week during a local appearance by Schneiderman he told reporters he could not comment on the on-going investigation into Pigeon. 

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