A New York State Supreme Court judge pleaded guilty on Wednesday to bribery in connection with the state attorney general’s investigation into his relationship with a Buffalo-area political consultant with ties to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The judge, John A. Michalek, who also pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing, said he would cooperate with the probe.
A spokesman for the state courts system said that as part of his plea agreement, Mr. Michalek had resigned as a state Supreme Court judge.
Mr. Michalek has been under investigation for months by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in connection with his relationship with Steven Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman who has raised money and occasionally advised the governor on western New York-related matters.
According to the criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Messrs. Michalek and Pigeon had “an understanding” in which the judge “engaged in official conduct” that benefited Mr. Pigeon’s interests, which included lawsuits before the judge. Mr. Michalek received benefits from Mr. Pigeon, such as hockey tickets and assistance seeking judicial appointments for himself and jobs for his relatives.
Mr. Pigeon is set to be arrested on Thursday and indicted later that day, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria Jr., didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Today’s proceedings expose a corrupt, multiyear scheme to use political favors to buy off a sitting state judge,” Mr. Schneiderman, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday.
Here are some previous Perdido Street School blog posts on Pigeon and Cuomo (here, here, here and here.)
And of course, there's the wonderful Buffalo News story in 2013 in which Pigeon brags he's Governor Cuomo's go-to guy in Buffalo:
If Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seems obsessed with all things Buffalo in the months leading to his re-election campaign, those familiar with the governor point to his rejection by the voters of nine western counties in 2010.
Perhaps that’s why Cuomo is turning to G. Steven Pigeon, one of his oldest – and most controversial – Western New York allies, for fundraising, politics and even policy, according to several sources.
The former Erie County Democratic chairman is taking on more assignments from Cuomo and is telling political leaders here of a larger role, according to at least half a dozen highly placed sources with knowledge of the situation.
And while Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi would not discuss Pigeon specifically when questioned by The Buffalo News, he did not deny the suggestion that Pigeon plays a role for the governor.
“The governor has many friends in Buffalo, from the mayor to the county executive to Sam Hoyt to Steve Pigeon,” Azzoparadi said.
Pigeon’s larger profile may also stem from other roles such as major campaign donor and the $50,000 check he presented to Cuomo’s birthday fundraiser at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel last December.
Other Democrats say a senior official for the governor has told members of the Cuomo administration, including Hoyt, to have regular contact with Pigeon. They say that Pigeon has joined conference calls and meetings and that his involvement transcends politics to include economic-development matters.
One major Democrat said local officials “employed by the State of New York” are aware of Pigeon’s enhanced position for the governor.
“He’s going to be his top political person,” the Democrat said of Pigeon’s role for the governor in Western New York. “Steve is telling people that."
Now that Pigeon, the governor's top political person in Buffalo, is set to be arrested on bribery charges tomorrow, the governor may be wondering just what that top operative has to trade with the authorities for a lighter sentence.
Pigeon was in on Cuomo's economic development matters in Buffalo?
Gee, there might be something there, especially since those matters are already under investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharara.
This Pigeon arrest is just one strand of the investigations into the governor's world that Cuomo's got to worry about.
There are also the various strands in the Buffalo Billion and state contract mess, with offshoots to former aides Todd Howe and Joe Percoco and Cuomo's man at SUNY Poly, Alain Kaloyeros.
Bharara has warned that he's scrutinizing malfeasance in executive branches around New York.
Going to be an interesting, interesting summer.