Saturday, December 9, 2023

Former NY Supreme Court Justice Sentenced to Jail

Former New York State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek and former Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee G. Steven Pigeon were both sentenced to jail in an alleged bribery scheme, Attorney General Letitia James announced today. Pigeon is facing additional charges of raping a child.

Michalek, age 71, will serve 16 months in jail and pay a $5,000 fine. Pigeon, age 61, was sentenced to one year in jail to run concurrent with a federal four-month sentence and a $5,000 fine. The sentence was handed down by Judge Donald F. Cerio, Jr.

Between February 2012 and April 2015, Michalek and Pigeon allegedly exchanged emails and text messages which revealed Pigeon was bribing Michalek in order to influence judicial decisions. Messages reportedly show Pigeon helped Michalek secure employment and official appointments for two of his family members, gave Michalek free tickets to box seats for Buffalo Sabres hockey games, and gave Michalek’s family a free ticket to a $1,000 political fundraiser. The messages also indicate that Pigeon helped Michalek secure a judicial appointment to the New York State Supreme Court in the Appellate Division.

Throughout the same time period, Pigeon and Michalek were accused of discussing multiple pending lawsuits that Michalek presided over. Michalek allegedly shared privileged and non-public information with Pigeon so that he could provide input and advice on the cases. In one case, Michalek reportedly appointed an attorney chosen by Pigeon to a receivership. Pigeon’s choice was not on the court-issued list of receivers, so in order to appoint the person, Michalek filed a document with the Office of Court Administration in which he falsely claimed he needed that specific attorney’s expertise in handling the receivership.

On June 30, 2016, Michalek pleaded guilty to two felonies, including Bribe Receiving in the Third Degree, a class D felony, and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony, in connection with receiving bribes from Pigeon and for filing a false document with the New York State Office of Court Administration when he appointed a receiver requested by Pigeon. After entering his plea, Michalek submitted a letter of resignation to the New York State Chief Administrative Judge and was disbarred from practicing law. At today’s sentencing, Michalek’s defense attorney made an oral motion, and sentencing was stayed until September 9, 2022.

On September 28, 2018, Pigeon pleaded guilty to Bribery in the Third Degree, a class D felony. After entering his guilty plea, Pigeon was disbarred.  On October 9, 2018, he pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to illegally cause a $25,000 campaign donation from a Canadian CEO to a New York State official running for reelection to statewide office in 2014. When the CEO’s donation was initially rejected because he was not a U.S. citizen, Pigeon arranged for a U.S. citizen who worked for the CEO to make the donation instead. In exchange for the donation, Pigeon and the CEO attended a New York City fundraiser for the candidate.

Yesterday, July 27, 2022, Pigeon was sentenced on federal charges to four months in jail followed by one year of supervised release by the Honorable Richard J. Arcara, U.S. District Judge, Western District of New York. This was separate from today’s sentencing.

On December 2, 2021, Pigeon was indicted and arraigned on two counts of Predatory Sexual Assault Against a Child, Rape in the first degree, and other charges. This case is still pending in Erie County Court.

“New Yorkers put their trust in judges and public servants to serve the interests of the people, not make a mockery of our institutions for personal financial gain,” said AG James. “Former Judge Michalek and party leader Pigeon engaged in a deep web of deception and bribery that violated their duty to the public and the very laws Michalek swore to uphold. Let today’s sentencing be a warning to all who would try to do the same: our judicial system is not for sale, and regardless of political party affiliation, my office will always hold corrupt officials accountable.”

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