G. Steven Pigeon faces three charges of violating state election law.
The former Erie County Democratic chairman is accused of illegally funding races for the County Legislature and a local town supervisor in 2013.
Two longtime Pigeon associates, Kristy L. Mazurek and David B. Pfaff, were arraigned on the same charges. All three pleaded not guilty.
All are accused of three counts of attempting to evade rules governing campaign contributions by unauthorized committees. Each is also charged with one count of filing a false instrument. All charges are class E felonies.
Pigeon previously was indicted on charges that he bribed State Supreme Court Judge John Michalek. Michalek pleaded guilty last year, resigned his seat and is awaiting sentencing.
Under the new charges brought by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Pigeon is accused of illegally supporting individual campaigns through a committee dubbed the WNY Progressive Caucus.
The campaigns were for legislative candidates Richard A. Zydel and Wes Moore and Amherst supervisor candidate Mark A. Manna. Pigeon also supported Manna’s unsuccessful candidacy for Erie County Democratic chairman in 2014.
Mazurek served as the committee’s treasurer and has been cooperating for more than two years with investigators, according to previous reports in The Buffalo News. Pfaff was an operative for the committee.
The WNY Progressive Caucus raised about $267,000 in 2013 for candidates challenging those endorsed by Democratic headquarters. Schneiderman, the FBI and State Police began probing complaints lodged by Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant and former Erie County Assistant District Attorney Mark A. Sacha in 2014.
Their complaints to the Erie County Board of Elections were submitted on a bipartisan basis to the State Board of Elections, which referred them to the attorney general.
Pigeon's home was searched on May 28, 2015, by law enforcement officials as a result of the probe. The raids also descended upon the residences of former Buffalo Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey and Christopher M. Grant, a former aide to Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence.
Justice Donald F. Cerio Jr. earlier this year rejected Pigeon's motions to invalidate those search warrants, executed on his home, cellphone and email accounts in 2015 and 2016. The justice also denied all motions to have those warrants thrown out.
Pigeon had argued that the warrants were illegally altered and that the judge who signed them was politically biased against him.
Cerio also denied a defense motion to see the entire warrant application, which the Attorney General’s Office argued contained information that was sensitive to its investigation.
The decision was a blow to the defense’s efforts to have the original nine-count indictment against Pigeon dismissed and to weaken any other lines of investigation.
Defense attorney Paul Cambria on Wednesday asked for leave to reargue his motions to have the search warrants suppressed.
Cerio will decide on whether to allow that at a later, unspecified date.
Mazurek’s home was not raided in 2015 but shortly afterward The News reported she was cooperating with authorities.
Pfaff, a longtime Pigeon operative, has acknowledged mistakes in keeping WNY Progressive Caucus records, especially in reporting that Pigeon received $25,000 from the committee for consulting services. Pfaff admitted listing the $25,000 as an expenditure, but he called it a mistake.
He and Pigeon said the money was never received, with Pigeon blaming "sloppy" record-keeping for the entry in the campaign reports.
After accepting the pleas, Cerio allowed each defendant 60 days to prepare before deciding whether to hold felony hearings on the charges. Cerio is hearing the case to avoid any possible appearance of conflicts of interest in the local judiciary. He is based in Madison County.