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Cambria wants Schneiderman to disclose secret witness against Pigeon

Lawyers for G. Steven Pigeon are demanding that state prosecutors reveal the identify of a secret witness who has negotiated a plea agreement with federal authorities in the bribery and extortion case filed against the political operative.

In papers filed in State Supreme Court late Friday, defense attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr. disclosed that the state prosecutors who charged Pigeon with bribery and extortion indicate they are “aware of a plea agreement between one of the witnesses and the United States Attorney’s Office.”

But Cambria also noted that at the request of federal prosecutors, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office has withheld the agreement from Pigeon’s defense team. He also noted that Schneiderman’s office has denied requests for transcripts or recordings of former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek’s recorded conversations with FBI agents, in which false statements were allegedly made.

Pigeon’s lawyers now argue they must be made aware of the identity of the cooperating witness and the nature of the person’s testimony or else “Mr. Pigeon will be engaged in trial by surprise.”

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s desire to deny Mr. Pigeon access to a plea agreement does not trump the attorney general’s legal obligation to disclose such evidence to the defense,” Cambria argued.

Pigeon’s attorneys are essentially making the case that the attorney general has no right to continue sheltering the identity of their secret witness without sufficient cause.

“There are no allegations whatsoever that Mr. Pigeon presents a threat to the safety of the People’s confidential informant(s) or that there is any other compelling reason to withhold the warrant applications,” Cambria said in the court papers. “Thus, the voluminous cases involving the safety and protection of confidential informants are irrelevant to resolution of whether the People must disclose the search warrant affidavits to Mr. Pigeon.”

The newest submission of Pigeon’s defense arguments to the court also revives several other legal motions Cambria filed in August. In those papers, the defense attorney argued that the warrants authorizing the search of Pigeon’s waterfront condo on May 28, 2015 were defective.

He also continued to assert that Schneiderman lacks the authority and jurisdiction to pursue the nine charges he has lodged against Pigeon, the former Erie County Democratic chairman.

The Pigeon case began with complaints filed with the Erie County Board of Elections stemming from the 2013 campaign. They alleged that a political committee called the WNY Progressive Caucus engaged in illegal campaign finance activities.

The Erie County board then referred the case to the State Board of Elections, which then passed it on to Schneiderman. The attorney general launched a probe in conjunction with the FBI in 2014 that resulted in the 2015 raid on Pigeon’s home and the charges lodged on June 30.

The charges also ensnared Michalek, who will be sentenced on Dec. 15 for his own bribery-related charges stemming from the case, and resulted in his resignation after more than two decades on the bench.


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