ALBANY — A longtime Buffalo political powerbroker and political ally to Gov. Cuomo pleaded guilty Friday for his role in a bribery scheme involving a judge.
Steven Pigeon, a one-time chair of the Erie County Democrats and a well-connected political consultant who also had ties to the Clintons, faces up to one year behind bars after pleading guilty to a single felony charge of third-degree bribery.
Pigeon was originally hit in 2016 with eight felony charges and faces up to 15 years in prison in a case brought by then-state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and completed by his successor, Barbara Underwood.
Pigeon, 58, was accused of engaging in a “years-long, mutually beneficial bribery scheme” with state Supreme Court Justice John Michalek, who previously resigned after pleading guilty.
According to the attorney general’s office, the judge through emails and other communications asked favors from Pigeon, including for help finding two relatives work and assistance in getting an appointment to the higher Supreme Court Appellate Division.
In return, Pigeon, who is also a lawyer, was accused of having received information, insight and preferential access on cases he and his associates had interest in.
“As we detailed, Steve Pigeon orchestrated a brazen, multiyear scheme to bribe a sitting judge – demonstrating flagrant contempt for the rule of law and the interests of New Yorkers,” Underwood said Friday after the plea in Buffalo state Supreme Court.
In Albany, Pigeon is perhaps best known for helping upend the state Senate in 2009 by working with the Republicans to flip two Democrats in a short-lived GOP-led state Senate leadership coup.
His lawyer, Paul J. Cambria Jr., did not immediately return a call for comment. But he told the Buffalo News, which first reported the guilty plea, that he was satisfied with the plea and hopes Pigeon, who is free on $10,000 bail, is spared any jail time when he is sentenced Dec. 21.
As Erie County Democratic chairman, Pigeon helped Cuomo navigate the often fractured western New York political scene. He is the latest from the governor’s political orbit caught in legal crosshairs. Several top aides, including long-time confidante Joseph Percoco, associates and donors have been convicted on federal corruption charges this year tied to state business.