BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The former leader of Erie County’s Democratic party, and two of his cohorts, set up an illegal committee to fund the election of three local politician, according to the state attorney general.
Steve Pigeon, Kristy Mazurek and David Pfaff each pleaded not guilty to charges they set up a political action committee in order to hide the fact they were breaking campaign finance laws, that they failed to report tens of thousands of dollars to the state board of elections.
It’s a case that’s been kicked around Erie County politics for years.
But Wednesday, all the chatter turned into criminal charges, as Pigeon, the former leader of the county’s Democratic Committee was charged with setting up a shell committee to bankroll the campaigns of three local politicians.
Joel Daniels, who’s representing Mazurek, said state election laws are a challenge, and can be applied in varying ways.
“It’s kind of like going through a maze,” Daniels said. “There’s a lot of twists and turns. But essentially, that’s what we’re doing to be dealing with here. And we are confident, all of us are, that this matter will be resolved favorably.”
Pigeon, Mazurek and David Pfaff each face four felonies: three counts of election law violations and one count of filing false instruments. If convicted on the four felonies they could face four years in prison.
The state Attorney General’s Office says in 2013, Pigeon, Mazurek and Pfaff created the Western New York Progressive Caucus, which allowed them to contribute tens of thousands of dollars for two candidates for county legislature and one candidate for town supervisor.
Mark Sacha, a former attorney with the Erie County DA’s office, blew the whistle on this case almost a decade ago, and was fired.
He called Pigeon “a political kingmaker.”
“This is what happens when politics is allowed to infect, infect the entire legal system, the judiciary, the election system,” Sacha said. “This is corruption. And the only reason why it exists is because we allow it to exist.”
“The entire system is working in a way to give special justice to Steve Pigeon, and it has for 10 years,” he added. “So the fact that he finally got charged wouldn’t happen for the rest of us, and it shouldn’t.”
The three defendants are due back in court on June 19, although it’s expected there will be additional court appearances before then.
The charges presented by the attorney general on Wednesday are different from the charges that Pigeon already faces. In a separate case, Pigeon is facing nine charges related to alleged bribes of State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek. Michalek resigned from the bench last summer after pleading guilty to receiving bribes. The case is set for trial in September.