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Prosecutors query Sacha on Pigeon, immunity Ex-DA Clark denies giving it to witness

Career prosecutor Mark A. Sacha, who accused his current and past bosses of giving Democratic strategist G. Steven Pigeon a pass on election law violations, said senior prosecutors grilled him Tuesday and asked if he knew that Pigeon was given immunity from prosecution.

But Frank J. Clark, the past district attorney who would have the authority to give Pigeon immunity, said he never mentioned immunity.

Pigeon himself told a questioner: "I don't know what you're talking about."

Frank A. Sedita III, the current district attorney, refused to discuss the question about immunity that his senior aides asked Sacha.

"I am in the process of gathering all the facts and evidence about a matter I understood to be closed in December of 2008," Sedita said.

Sacha, who was a deputy district attorney before Sedita demoted him to assistant in charge of arson prosecutions after taking office in January, returned to work Tuesday for the first day since making his accusations Sunday in The Buffalo News.

He maintains that he was demoted from his high-ranking position two days after he handed Sedita a memo outlining serious campaign violations in the 2007 county executive campaign of former West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark.

Sedita said the demotion stemmed more from "me knowing who he is and what he's been doing around here for 20 years." But Sacha contends his presentation of evidence implicating Pigeon and Timothy M. Clark -- the candidate's brother -- led to his reassignment.

Sacha also said Sedita is involved in a conflict of interest because Pigeon served as an ally in his 2008 campaign for district attorney.

Sacha, who took a vacation day Monday, said two investigators from the district attorney's office greeted him when he reported to work Tuesday morning. Throughout his day in the office, Sacha said, he was escorted by the investigators. They also led him to a small conference room normally used to interrogate defendants.

"Six senior members of the district attorney's staff grilled me like a criminal," Sacha said.

He said Sedita's top deputy, John J. DeFranks, immediately asked him: "Are you aware that Steve Pigeon was a cooperating witness, that he was granted immunity?"

"Absolutely not," Sacha said he responded. "It never happened. Why would we give immunity to someone who was not cooperating and perhaps was the ultimate target?"

Frank Clark was district attorney during the election law prosecution of Paul Clark and would have been the prosecutor responsible for granting Pigeon immunity; he said Pigeon did not receive immunity.

"He was questioned; he gave a statement relative to transactions that he had," Frank Clark said of Pigeon. "So, if you're asking if he cooperated with us, the answer is he did. He came in anytime he was asked. He answered all our questions. So the answer to that is yes."

But about immunity, which would have prevented Pigeon's prosecution, Clark said: "He was neither given nor did he ask for immunity."

When asked Tuesday about immunity, Pigeon said the subject was never discussed. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said. "And the reason nothing ever happened to me is that I did not break any laws."

Sedita said Tuesday he is not yet in a position to talk about any of Sacha's allegations or any other aspect of the case, including whether Pigeon was granted immunity.

"I would be much further ahead in the process if I didn't get first wind of this on Saturday afternoon and Mr. Sacha had not absented himself from the office on Monday," he said.

Frank Clark repeated what he told The News on Saturday. He felt the investigation ended with misdemeanor guilty pleas by Paul Clark, Roger J. Peck Jr. and a health care company owned by Michael W. Mullins for hiding contributions to Paul Clark.

"Pigeon was not an issue in anybody's mind other than Sacha's," Clark said. "For some reason, Mark was obsessed with Pigeon."

Sacha said he believed that Pigeon, as well as Timothy Clark, should have been prosecuted. He said he outlined the case in a 13-page memo backed by 50 pages of law and facts to Sedita before he took office.

Sedita said he had not read the memo until asked about it Saturday by The News.

One of those allegations surrounded a $10,000 political contribution from former County Executive Joel A. Giambra to a Pigeon consulting company called Landen Associates LLC. Pigeon said it was for consulting work helping Giambra publicize his accomplishments before easing into private life.

But Giambra listed it on his campaign expense report as a political contribution -- not for consulting.

Pigeon said Tuesday that report notation was a mistake.

From there, Sacha said, the money went to a company called Media Co., owned by Timothy Clark. And then, Timothy Clark made a $9,000 loan to his brother's campaign.

Giambra's contribution traveled the circuitous route to Paul Clark, Sacha said, without any connection to the politically toxic former county executive.

Pigeon said he paid Timothy Clark's company for consulting work on a possible mayoral run in Niagara Falls by Lewis "Babe" Rotella.
Rotella never declared any campaign expenses or contributions from Pigeon or Timothy Clark, according to campaign reports.

And Sacha said he questioned Rotella and obtained a statement that he had never met Timothy Clark and done anything on his campaign.

Pigeon countered Tuesday that the reason Rotella never met Clark and the expense or contribution was never listed on his own campaign reports is that Pigeon studied the possibility of a Rotella mayoral campaign independently.

"We set up an independent expenditure, and then realized he was going to be crushed," he said. "All these campaigns are done independently."

As he has in other campaigns, Pigeon maintained that such activity is legal if not "coordinated" with candidates.

Pigeon was then asked why he would pay $9,000 to Timothy Clark for consulting work on a potential Rotella campaign -- and Rotella knew nothing about it.

"Because I'm involved in politics all over the state," Pigeon said. "That was one I was looking at. We weren't working with him directly."

e-mail: mbeebe@buffnews.com and rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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