The U.S. Attorney’s office has indicted Western New York political operative Steve Pigeon on eight counts including bribery and wire fraud. The allegations appear to be the same or similar as those in a state case currently in litigation.

More than a year ago, the state Attorney General’s office brought charges against Pigeon, alleging he exchanged a series of favors with a state Supreme Court justice. The judge, John Michalek, has already pleaded guilty and promised to cooperate with investigators in hopes of a lighter sentence.

This summer, the state’s case took a hit when a judge ruled email evidence used to build it was obtained illegally and should be suppressed moving forward. The Attorney General’s office is in the process of appealing that ruling but Pigeon’s attorney says if the state loses that appeal it would not be able to move forward with prosecution.

“I do know that it’s unusual. In fact, it’s the first time I can think of in recent history where a set of charges pending in state court have been duplicated in federal court and again I think it’s just, the plan is to try to get around what’s happened so far in the state side,” defense attorney Paul Cambria said. “We’ll see how that goes, lot’s of interesting legal issues there.”

The Attorney General’s office said it’s actually quite common for state and federal prosecutors to bring charges against a defendant simultaneously and in this case, both have been investigating Pigeon for years.

“We intend to vigorously pursue our prosecution and ultimately prevail,” AG spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said.

At the same time, the federal government moved to drop charges it leveled in the spring against Pigeon, alleging he solicited and coordinated a back-door donation from a foreign national to the reelection campaign of a candidate for statewide office. It was later confirmed that candidate was the governor.

“I never thought there was any basis for that. I said that repeatedly and today it’s been dismissed. We’ll see how that goes,” Cambria said.

He said the maximum sentence if the government is successful is 20 years and prison and a $250,000 fine but under federal sentencing guidelines it would likely be substantially less than that. Given the evidentiary issues in the state’s case the judge has scheduled a series of deadlines for discovery and response and Pigeon is scheduled to appear again on February 9.

“The detailed facts set forth in the indictment provide evidence not only of the charges contained therein but of the tremendous investigation conducted by agents from the Buffalo Division of the FBI together with their partners at the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Police,” said Acting U.S. Attorney James Kennedy.  “The indictment speaks for itself.”

Pigeon is also facing charges for violation of election law in state Supreme Court but Cambria said that case has appeared to stall while the Attorney General appeals the email ruling. We’ve reached out to the AG’s office for comment on Friday’s developments.

 

Pigeon Federal Indictment by Ryan Whalen on Scribd