A “mystery witness” lies at the heart of G. Steven Pigeon’s latest defense efforts, and the speculation now begins as to who may have made a deal with prosecutors in return for testimony against the Buffalo political operative.
As Pigeon faces a spring trial on nine charges of bribery and extortion, defense attorney Paul J. Cambria Jr. on Friday filed motions demanding that the state Attorney General’s Office identify the unknown person he said is cooperating with federal authorities also involved in the case. The defense has a right to know who is supplying the information, what the person is telling investigators and what deals may have been made, Cambria asserted. The attorney said he wants Pigeon to avoid “trial by surprise.”
So let the theories, sub-theories and speculation that naturally follows such developments begin. Who is the prosecution’s mystery witness?
• Is it Steven M. Casey, the Pigeon pal and former deputy mayor whom The Buffalo News reported is cooperating with authorities?
• Could it be Kristy L. Mazurek, whom The News has also identified as cooperating with authorities even as she competes for an Assembly seat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary?
• How about David B. Pfaff, who, like Mazurek, worked on the WNY Progressive Caucus independent political fund that spawned the original probe and who also has been questioned in connection with the case?
• Or maybe even Richard E. Dobson, the former Sheriff’s Office lieutenant who unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 2013 and who benefited from Progressive Caucus advertising dollars while raising and spending a relatively paltry amount himself?
Representatives of State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul aren’t talking, citing the need to avoid discussion of an ongoing investigation. But that doesn’t mean that others following the case aren’t at least speculating about who may emerge as a star witness for the government other than former State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek. He will be sentenced on Dec. 15 on his own bribery-related charges stemming from the Pigeon case.
Michalek is also known to be cooperating with authorities following his resignation from the bench on June 30.
The home of Casey, a longtime Pigeon associate who was considered the brains of Mayor Byron W. Brown’s political operation during his City Hall days, was raided by agents of the attorney general, State Police and FBI on May 28, 2015. He, like former congressional staff member Christopher M. Grant (whose home was also searched), has never been charged.
But The News reported in July that Casey had talked with the FBI on two occasions and that two sources reported he could be a target of the criminal investigation. Casey has always maintained he is not a target of the probe.
In addition, the special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI – Adam S. Cohen – said following Pigeon’s indictment on June 30 that federal authorities remain involved in the case.
“It’s possible there could be future charges at the federal level,” he said then. “This is only one prong of an active investigation by the FBI.”
Mazurek, who has long and extensive ties to Pigeon, served as treasurer of the Progressive Caucus and recently executed the sale of Pigeon’s condo through power of attorney he granted. No search warrants were ever issued for her home, because The News reported in June 2015 that she was already cooperating with investigators.
Artvoice newspaper reported last week that state and federal agents interviewed Pfaff, another longtime Pigeon associate who now works on the staff of State Sen. Marc C. Panepinto of Buffalo. He also was involved with the Progressive Caucus.
Previously he told The News that clerical errors were behind some of the discrepancies under examination by state and federal investigators.
The News also reported last week that agents questioned Dobson about his connection to the Progressive Caucus.
When oral arguments on the series of motions are presented Sept. 26 before State Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio, Cambria is expected to again make the case that Erie County Judge Michael Pietruszka’s search warrant was defective because it failed to list Pigeon’s specific address at the Admiral’s Walk condominium.
And according to the papers he filed Friday, Cambria will also continue his claim that the attorney general lacks the authority to pursue the case, and that the search warrant failed to specifically identify Pigeon’s cellphone as an item to be seized.