Political operative admits to bribing judge

Political operative admits to bribing judge
Posted at 12:36 PM, Sep 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-28 12:36:22-04

A well-known Western New York political operative has admitted to bribing a former State Supreme Court Justice.

On Friday, Steve Pigeon pleaded guilty to state charges of third-degree bribery in connection to his interactions with former Justice John Michalek.

In June 2016, former State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a nine count felony complaint against Pigeon. Charges included  two counts of bribery, six counts of rewarding official misconduct, and one count of grand larceny.  At the time, Pigeon pleaded not guilty to all counts.

The State Attorney General's Office said Pigeon and Michalek exchanged emails and texts from February 2012 to April 2015 in which Pigeon offered bribes with the understanding that he could influence Michalek's official actions as a Supreme Court Justice.

Pigeon used tickets to hockey games and invitations to political fundraisers to influence Justice Michalek on several civil cases in which Pigeon had interest. He also offered to help Michalek obtain a judicial appointment to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Juidical Department and agreed to help find employment and appointments for two of Michalek's family members.

In exchange, the Attorney General's office says Michalek gave Pigeon non-public information about multiple lawsuits in which Pigeon had an interest. Pigeon gave Michalek input and advice on those cases. Michalek even selected the attorney Pigeon recommended to serve as a Reciever, even though that person was not on a court issued list of qualified Recievers. In order to appoint that person, Michalek filed a document with the Office of Court Administration where he falsely claimed that he required that attorney’s expertise in handling that receivership. 

Justice Michalek stepped down from the bench and pleaded guilty to bribery charges in June 2016. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation by the State Attorney General's Office into Pigeon's alleged crimes, and waive his right to appeal. He is still awaiting sentencing.

In October 2017, Pigeon was indicted on federal charges mirroring the state charges. Those charges are still pending.

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