Former New York State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek accepted bribes from former Erie County power broker and Democratic Committee Chairman Steven Pigeon – and now – he will spend 16 months in jail and have to pay a $5,000 fine.
The 71-year-old was sentenced for his role in a bribery scheme that influenced judicial decisions and official appointments.
The Honorable Judge Donald F. Cerio, Jr. sentenced Michalek to one year in jail on a Bribe Receiving charge and four months in jail on an Offering a False Instrument charge to run consecutively, for a total of 16 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Michalek was sentenced in July along with his co-conspirator, former Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee, G. Steven Pigeon, 61, but the Judge stayed sentencing until today following an oral motion made by Michalek’s counsel. Pigeon was sentenced to one year in jail to run concurrent to his federal four-month sentence and a $5,000 fine.
“Michalek violated the very laws he swore to uphold as a State Supreme Court Justice and lost New Yorkers’ trust, all for personal gain,” said Attorney General James. “New Yorkers deserve a justice system they can have faith in. That’s why this corrupt behavior is so egregious and unacceptable. Regardless of party affiliation, my office remains committed to rooting out corruption in government, at every level and in every branch.”
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.
Between February 2012 and April 2015, Michalek and Pigeon exchanged emails and text messages which revealed Pigeon was bribing Michalek in order to influence judicial decisions. Messages 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 discussed multiple pending lawsuits that Michalek presided over. Michalek shared privileged and non-public information with Pigeon so that he could provide input and advice on the cases. In one case, Michalek 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.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York, New York State Police, and Federal Bureau of Investigation for their work on this matter. The OAG would also like to thank the New York State Board of Elections for their assistance.
Assistant Attorney General Susan H. Sadinsky of the Public Integrity Bureau prosecuted this case under the supervision of Public Integrity Bureau Chief Gerard Murphy, Deputy Bureau Chief Kiran Heer, and Counsel to the Criminal Division Stacy Aronowitz. Senior Analyst Robert Vanwey also worked on the investigation. The Division for Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Jose Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.
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