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Pigeon indicted on federal charges, while separate complaint dismissed

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Federal prosecutors on Friday morning unsealed an eight-count indictment, charging longtime political operative G. Steven Pigeon with counts that mirror a pending New York State case. Additionally, a federal complaint involving his alleged arrangement of an illegal campaign contribution was dismissed.

Pigeon faces federal charges of bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy. Federal prosecutors are lodging their own complaint that Pigeon allegedly entered into a mutually-beneficial relationship with then-State Supreme Court Judge John Michalek.

It is alleged that Pigeon arranged jobs for members of Michalek's family in exchange for a high-paying court receivership position for one of his associates, as well as access to confidential information in certain judicial cases.

In June 2016, Michalek pled guilty in State Supreme Court to bribery and filing a false instrument and resigned from the bench. He has not yet been sentenced and is now cooperating with investigators.

Defense attorney Paul Cambria suggested outside the courtroom that the federal case may be an "end run-around" to help prosecutors get past some of the prosecution's pre-trial setbacks at the state level. In June, the presiding judge threw out key evidence. 

"Certain things there were suppressed by the trial judge and I think this is an attempt to circumvent that," Cambria said. "But it will be complicated, because we do have those decisions on that side. There are lots of issues, actually some unique issues, in the case. We're looking forward to getting into them and doing our job."

Amy Spitalnick, a spokesperson for State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, told WBFO in a brief email message that state and federal prosecutors have both been probing Pigeon's affairs for years and the federal case announced Friday does not take the place of theirs. She wrote: "We intend to vigorously pursue our prosecution and ultimately prevail." 

Federal attorneys did not comment while leaving the courthouse. In a prepared statement released by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Blanco said: "“Bribery of a judge strikes at the very core of our democracy. The independence of the judiciary is paramount to civilized society.  Our prosecutors and law enforcement partners will pursue any and all attempts to corrupt our fundamental institutions, including the judiciary.” 

If convicted of his federal charges, Pigeon could face a range of five to twenty years in prison per count and fines of $250,000 per count.

Meanwhile, a separate federal complaint announced in May was dismissed Friday morning. It was previously alleged that Pigeon assisted a Canadian businessman with an illegal campaign contribution to a New York State political candidate. That Canadian individual, according to the complaint, owns a Montreal-based online gaming site and was reportedly seeking influence to have that business legalized in New York.

James Kennedy, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, did not identify the political candidate during his May news conference but Cambria had identified him as Governor Andrew Cuomo. At no time was the governor accused of wrongdoing.

"I never thought there was any basis for that. I said that repeatedly," Cambria said Friday outside the courtroom. "Today it's been dismissed and we'll see how that goes."

Pigeon also face charges in a separate state case. He, along with two associates, is accused of setting up a political action committee through which illegal campaign funding was arranged for at least three local races.

"That hasn't moved forward," Cambria said. "Part of the reason, I think, is because of the favorable ruling that we've had and that impacts on that case as well. I think there we have to resolve the appeals at the appellate division before there will be a determination as to what happens there."

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