Erie County – Nearly two years ago, former Erie County Democratic Chairman, G. Steven Pigeon, was indicted on charges related to an alleged one-time rape of his niece when she was nine years old. His trial is in 35 days.
Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced the charges on December 2, 2021, five years after the rape reportedly took place. The niece was 14 at the time and is now 16.
Pigeon faces two counts of predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act, first-degree sexual abuse, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Flynn said at a press conference in 2021, “This is big boy stuff here. This is rape. This isn’t child molestation. This is rape. And so, when we’re talking at that level, alright, we’re talking life in prison here.”
As the trial draws near, significant challenges face the prosecution.
There is no DNA evidence, no rape kit, no medical report, and no mandated reporter who made reports at the time of the alleged incident. Additionally, there were no individuals to whom the alleged victim confided about the event — until her delayed disclosure five years later.
Flynn addressed the lack of corroborating evidence, highlighting his faith in the teen’s story.
Flynn said, “And at the end of the day, what all these cases come down to is a child’s gonna say something. I presume he’s gonna say something. ‘It didn’t happen.’ Alright, at the end of the day, it’s a child’s word versus his word. It is, and I believe the child. I’m standing with the child, and I’m going to give the child justice.”
Tomorrow marks the last pretrial hearing before Pigeon’s case goes to trial.
There are no prior allegations of sexual abuse against Pigeon.
Family Doubts and Prosecution’s Challenges
According to family members who have heard the accuser’s intricately woven tale, various portions of it – from impossible physics to improbable biology, inaccurate timelines, and false information that investigators could effortlessly disprove – contribute substantially to her narrative of how her uncle supposedly raped her.
Flynn’s decision not to cross-check specific story details shows how firmly he relies on the integrity of the teenager. The issue of delayed disclosure will be a matter of contention in the trial.
District Attorney Flynn addressed the subject.
“In our child sex abuse cases, the majority of the time, quite frankly, if you talk to experts on this, they will tell you that there is delayed reporting,” Flynn commented. He further elaborated, drawing parallels with other high-profile cases, “They will tell you that sometimes it takes years and years before the child tells someone or reports it. Look at all the clergy cases, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and other youth cases over the past five years. If not the majority, a great number of them involve victims who do not tell anyone. They hold it in for years and years. That’s very common.”
Contrary, however, to typical instances where victims achieve a clinical or psychological breakthrough leading to disclosure, this case offers a different narrative.
Family sources have shared that an adult woman confronted the girl, then 14, regarding age-inappropriate behavior linked to an adult male family member [not Pigeon] she frequently spent time with in private.
Cornered by these accusations, the girl reportedly attributed her actions to being raped by Pigeon, an event she had never previously mentioned to anyone.
No Other Accusations and In-House Investigation Raise Questions
In the nearly two years since Pigeon’s high-profile indictment, no other individuals have come forward to level similar accusations against him.
This includes his other nieces and grandnephews, with whom Pigeon shared a close bond and spent considerable time.
Flynn’s challenge will be to get the jury to rely beyond a reasonable doubt that Pigeon, who never abused anyone before or after, chose to rape his niece once and never tried again with her or anyone.
Flynn’s decision to handle the case in-house, through the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Bureau of the DA’s Office, is another example of his faith in the teenager.
By doing the investigation in-house, there was no legal requirement to notify Pigeon that he had a right to testify in the grand jury, which could have, if he testified, persuaded the grand jurors to decline to indict, thus not permitting the girl to get the justice Flynn wants for her.
Flynn later brought in State Police investigators from the Troop A Major Crimes Unit in Batavia.
Neither DA Flynn’s investigators nor the state police sought to question Pigeon about his side of the story before seeking an indictment.
From the start, Flynn had confidence in the case.
“The mother happened to have a family lawyer who did some civil matters for her previously, and called that lawyer and told that lawyer what her child had told her and wanted to know who to call and who to reach out to. The lawyer called me, and after the lawyer called me, I then gave it to my investigators and gave it to my attorneys, and they went from there. My people are the ones who brought in the state police.”
Bolstering the DA’s confidence in the case is the lawyer the mother happened to have was his former law partner.
Flynn made it clear he has all the evidence he needs – the voice of the teenage girl.
At Flynn’s press conference, a reporter asked, “do you have anything more than the word and allegation of a child?”
Flynn, reiterating his indelible faith in the teenager, responded, “I’m not gonna talk about any other evidence, but I have her word, though.”
Family Matriarch Tells a Different Story
Rita Gralike, 91, the family matriarch, has known Pigeon and his sister all their lives.
Gralike, a mother of four, grandmother, and great-grandmother, was the head of staff at the St. Louis office under former Missouri governor Joseph Teasdale. Her late husband, Donald Gralike, was president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for decades. and served in the Missouri House of Representatives for ten years and in the state Senate for four years. Her brother, the late Joseph Simeone, was a chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals and justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.
Gralike offered FR some family background.
The accuser’s mother, Pigeon’s sister, had three adult daughters, a teenage son, and grandchildren when her last child – the accuser in this case – was born. The girl’s father, known in the family as “Shirtless Billy,” for his attendance at her grandfather’s wake without a shirt, was a homeless man who lived on a Lake Erie beach when her mother brought him home.
He got her pregnant and left soon after.
As the late-born child grew up, the mother worked a day job. At night, she stayed out till closing time as a non-performing member of various bar bands, leaving the child’s care in others’ hands, Gralike said.
Since the child was born, the home has seen a succession of male figures roosting for a time, then departing suddenly. Gralike said the mother, over the years, made accusations against others, including one against her father and another against one of her husbands.
Gralike recalled a time years ago when the mother was obsessed with rape and supposedly wrote a detailed and fantastical narrative of being raped, which she claimed nobody believed.
Gralike also recalled that years ago, the mother claimed that while she was married to another man, someone raped her in Connecticut. It was unclear whether it was fiction, a coverup for an affair, or whether law enforcement brought charges.
Dinner Incident, and Lack of Repeated Abuse Raises Questions
Over the years, Pigeon had done a lot for his emotionally troubled sister and her children and grandchildren. He repeatedly bailed his sister out of financial and personal troubles she frequently encountered.
However, Pigeon spent little time with his sister’s youngest daughter. He saw her at family gatherings and took her with other family members to the movies. He had never been alone or sought to be alone with her.
At his sister’s pressing request, he took his niece out to dinner as a Christmas-oriented gift, initially intending to be a group gathering. However, when two friends declined to join, Pigeon and his niece had dinner at a restaurant, after which he drove her home.
Pigeon says he dropped her off; the accuser disclosed years later that he raped her on the way home and then casually dropped her off without going in to see her mother – who was likely to question her about what transpired during the dinner she pushed hard to set up.
DA Flynn will seek to explain why Pigeon, after raping the girl and getting away with it, never tried again.
While Flynn has complete faith in the girl, Gralike does not believe her story is true.
“This is completely out of character for Steven,” said Gralike.
“He does not act this way, never has. He is not the type of person, and it doesn’t work that way. You never have just one accusation of child molestation. Never before and never again.”
Unexplored Leads and Lack of Repeated Incidents Challenge Prosecution’s Narrative
Had the DA’s team questioned Pigeon, they would have learned that he never sought to be alone, even on the one night he was alone.
Pigeon attempted to invite two friends to accompany them. Both declined to go. The DA’s team would have discovered if they had interviewed Pigeon the names of those individuals, and interviewed them, and would have learned, as this publication has, that the mother had placed great pressure on Pigeon to develop a relationship with her daughter, that he finally consented, and that they were invited to attend – as a Christmas gift.
This publication interviewed both of them, and it is clear Pigeon did not seek a meeting to be alone with his niece. That he asked them both separately, and both had other obligations.
What does this prove? At least, it proves Pigeon had no preplans to commit the atrocity his niece accuses him of committing.
Another fact is equally clear. Pigeon took the girl to dinner – just before Christmas in 2016 – and then never sought to repeat any of the experience. He never sought to be alone with her again.
Pigeon’s attorney, James Nobles, drew the court’s attention to past political tensions between Flynn and Pigeon, which might have compromised Flynn’s judgment in prosecuting the case.
Flynn said he knows Pigeon, but has maintained distance from Pigeon over the years.
“I’ve probably seen him five times in my whole life and haven’t interacted with him in the past six years,” Flynn said.
In a motion to disqualify Flynn, Nobles enumerated specific interactions between the two that suggest more significant past involvement.
Among these incidents:
- Flynn, while in his Navy Jag uniform, met with Pigeon to get a political office with Pigeon’s assistance.
- An encounter where Flynn sought Pigeon’s recommendation to become the Undersecretary of the Navy during a lunch meeting. Pigeon declined the request, suggesting Flynn lacked experience. Pigeon’s refusal purportedly infuriated Flynn, who felt his “life dream” was dashed. Flynn confirmed the meeting, but denied any resentment.
- An episode where Flynn sought Pigeon’s recommendation to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for a court of claims judicial appointment. This took place at Pigeon’s waterfront condo, facilitated by a mutual attorney friend. Flynn had received backing from Cuomo appointee Sam Hoyt, among others.
Nobles said the root of their discord can be traced back to 2008, during Flynn’s initial run for DA. The Buffalo News, on September 27, 2009, reported that Pigeon played a crucial role in helping Frank Sedita become district attorney by securing the Conservative Party endorsement. This move sidelined Flynn, altering his career path for nearly eight years. Sedita, after serving as DA twice, shifted to become a State Supreme Court Justice, a position Flynn also aspired to and asked Pigeon for help.
In another twist, Nobles emphasized, “Pigeon opposed Flynn for a second time in his attempts to get a major position.” Governor Cuomo reappointed Judge Timothy Walker, a Republican, sidelining Flynn yet again.
The Erie County District Attorney’s office stood firmly behind Flynn’s integrity, asserting his ability to prosecute the case without prejudice.
They vehemently opposed Nobles’ claims, maintaining Flynn’s impartiality.
Administrative Judge Kevin Carter ruled in favor of the DA, allowing Flynn and his office to continue prosecuting.
Commitment to Prosecuting
Despite a lack of evidence, DA Flynn remained committed, asserting at a press conference, “When I found out who the alleged perpetrator was, it’s not just any ‘Joe Smith’. We’re all human. It’s allegedly Steve Pigeon, who obviously has some name recognition in the community… He has a history in the same circles that I used to travel in. … Obviously… I can’t just dismiss that. But at the same time, it’s not a factor. And at the same time, I’m going to make sure that this child gets justice.”
In a text to her family, Gralike, who has been outspoken about her belief that the girl is lying. wrote, “Even when [Pigeon] is proven innocent of these charges, people will always look at him and wonder… He’ll never be free of the scandal. And did the mother stop to think of the Pandora’s box she has opened for the rest of the family? During this trial, that little girl is going to have to take the stand and answer questions that will scar her psyche for the rest of her days….
“This is a travesty. I am forced to question [the] mother’s emotional stability to have cut all ties to her flesh and blood and accuse this kind man who has done nothing but help all of his family all their lives.”