Buffalo, NY — A former lawyer and Erie County Democratic Chairman, Steve Pigeon, is facing trial for allegedly raping a nine-year-old relative in 2016.
Pigeon, known for his role as an adviser to influential politicians, including former Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Bill Clinton, will face a jury on six counts of rape and sexual assault arising from allegations of a single incident with the girl seven years ago.
NY State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller will preside.
If a jury convicts, Pigeon, who has held positions of power most of his adult life, faces life in prison.
The accuser first reported the alleged rape in May 2021, four and a half years after it allegedly happened. Her allegations have torn the extended family apart, with some defending Pigeon, claiming the girl’s claims are false.
It is undisputed that Pigeon took her to dinner just before Christmas in 2016. The accuser said Pigeon raped her on the way home, which he denies.
Both sides acknowledged that the night in question would have been his only opportunity to rape her. Pigeon and the girl were never alone before or after.
According to family members, Pigeon was close to several nieces and grandnephews, with whom he spent time alone. No one has alleged any abuse.
The case received wide publicity and no one else has come forward or made a claim against Pigeon.
The prosecution’s narrative depicts a sudden act of violence from a man who, until that point, lived 56 years without any accusations of sexual misconduct.
Family sources disclosed that the accuser’s initial mention of the incident arose not spontaneously but during an unrelated questioning by an adult about another matter involving potentially inappropriate behavior with another relative and herself.
The girl, perhaps feeling cornered, reportedly diverted attention by making allegations against Pigeon, which occurred years before, family members said.
A family member who heard the accuser’s detailed narrative, said it challenges the laws of physics, suggesting impossibilities in her version of events. The schism in the family permitted this otherwise notable defect in her story to go unnoticed by the Erie County District Attorney, whose office investigated the case — a departure from routine rape investigations where State Police do the central portion of the investigative work.
Family members also suggest the accuser tends to fabricate stories and, according to a news report of a pretrial hearing, has a history of mental health problems. The girl’s mother, too, has critics within the now-divided family, with many believing that the mother has made many false accusations in the past.
The case has attracted media attention, given Pigeon’s prominent role in New York politics and his previous conviction for non-violent white-collar crimes.
In 2008, after decades of being one of the most prominent and well-known political power brokers in Western New York, with state and national reach, with roles ranging from legal counsel to the NY State Senate Democrats, to high level roles on five presidential campaigns, Pigeon became a target of a federal investigation. After several failed attempts at FBI entrapment, with people wearing wires and long-term surveillance of his business activities, New York State law enforcement joined the FBI in 2013.
In 2015, federal and state authorities raided his Buffalo waterfront penthouse and seized his computers, phone, and documents.
During the eight-year investigation, law enforcement interviewed over 100 people, subpoenaed thousands of documents and reviewed every email and phone record.
In 2016, the US Attorney for the Western District of New York and the New York State Attorney General filed indictments against Pigeon. The prosecutors produced more than one million pages of discovery to the defense, the fruits of years of monitoring the power broker’s actions.
The conclusion of the combined federal and state investigation resulted in two convictions for which Pigeon served eight months in county jail.
The federal conviction of Pigeon was for facilitating a campaign donation of $25,000 from a Canadian to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Pigeon disclosed the source. Cuomo never cashed the check. US federal law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to a US election.
Pigeon’s state crime was for “bribing” former State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek when Pigeon, as a lawyer, had two cases before the judge. The bribery took form when Pigeon provided free passes to the former judge and his wife to two NHL hockey games when one of his friends, billionaire Tom Golisano, owned the Buffalo Sabres.
He also gave the judge’s wife a free pass to a fundraiser Pigeon hosted for Cuomo at his penthouse.
In addition, the judge, who had known Pigeon since he was a teen and referred to him as “Uncle Steve,” asked Pigeon to find his son a job. Pigeon tried to procure the young man a paying job but failed. He got him a temporary unpaid position on the campaign of Barack Obama in DC.
Judge Michalek, who served a year on the bribery charges, did not rule favorably in either of Pigeon’s cases.
While the investigation turned up white-collar crimes that led to Pigeon’s incarceration for eight months, the voluminous discovery, the interviews with more than 100 people who knew Pigeon, the examination of his cell phone and emails, did not produce any evidence that Pigeon ever molested anyone or acted violently with any human being.
That lack of evidence extends to the current rape charges.
The genesis of the only meeting with the accuser was not one Pigeon initiated. The girl’s mother, struggling financially, was the instigator for the meeting between the then-financially successful Pigeon and the girl.
According to several friends and family members, the mother made no secret of her hope that Pigeon would bond with her daughter and help her financially. It is undisputed that the mother suggested a Christmastime dinner outing with her daughter and Pigeon.
Pigeon invited two adult friends, one male and one female, to accompany him to the dinner. Both friends remember Pigeon’s invitation and the mother’s eagerness for Pigeon to befriend the girl much like he had done with other family members. Pigeon would have been in their company if either friend had joined them.
The DA’s theory is that after trying to have friends with them, Pigeon took the girl to dinner and on the way home, purportedly stopping his car by the roadside, he suddenly decided to rape a child he was relatively unfamiliar with and had made no previous efforts to be with alone.
Afterward, Pigeon allegedly let her go, simply dropping her off outside her door.
Though he saw the girl at family gatherings, it is undisputed that Pigeon never made any overtures to see the girl alone again, directly or through her mother.
During a press conference in December 2021 announcing Pigeon’s arrest, District Attorney John Flynn acknowledged there is no physical evidence, no DNA, no rape kit, no hospital records, no mandated reporter, and no confirmation from another witness.
When WGRZ TV reporter Dave McKinley asked Flynn, “Do you have anything more than the word and allegation of a child?” Flynn replied, “I’m not going to talk about any other evidence, but I have her word, though.”
According to Flynn, a lack of corroborating evidence is common in child rape cases.
“What all these cases come down to [is] a child’s going to say something,” Flynn told the press. “I presume he’s going to say something: ‘it didn’t happen.’ All right. At the end of the day, it’s a child’s word versus his word, and I believe the child. I’m standing with the child, and I’m going to get the child justice.”
The trial begins in two months.