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Justice delayed; Ruling may finally lead to resolution of the years-old Sedita-Sacha dispute

This is taking a long time. It's going on three years since Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III fired prosecutor Mark A. Sacha. Sacha claims that politics drove a decision not to prosecute a case of what he says were improprieties by a political operative in the financing of an election campaign.

Sedita, who was not DA when the alleged offenses occurred, denied the allegation and fired Sacha for insubordination. Sacha sued. Both men are, in some way, on the hook regarding this matter -- as is G. Steven Pigeon, the operative in question -- but only now is the case showing any public signs of life. It deserves more attention than this.

A judge last week ordered Sedita and his predecessor, Frank J. Clark, to answer questions about a secret memo that details alleged crimes by Pigeon, a former Erie County Democratic chairman.

Sacha's memo reportedly details his investigation into Pigeon and shows that Pigeon laundered a $10,000 contribution from the campaign of former Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra to the unsuccessful campaign of former West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark, an ally of Pigeon.

Pigeon denies breaking any laws and was never prosecuted for the actions described in the memo.

Sacha wrote the memo before he was fired and wants it made public. Sedita has been fighting to keep it secret, arguing that the 13-page memo and 50 pages of documentation are confidential grand jury documents that he is legally required to keep secret.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott stopped short of declaring the memo a public document, but he ruled that it can be used in the federal lawsuit Sacha filed after he was fired. That may help to move this matter along.

The fight over the document's status is the stumbling block that has slowed this matter to a crawl. But now, with Scott ruling the documents do not have grand jury status, the case may move more quickly. It is scheduled to go to trial in mid-September -- after this year's primary election for district attorney, but before the November general election.

This matter deserves to be treated seriously and expeditiously. Not only are men's reputations on the line, but election law violations are real crimes that undermine the strength of democratic government and, ultimately, the faith that voters have in their institutions.

We are glad that Scott has settled the question of grand jury privilege and hope now that this case will be resolved expeditiously. Voters have a compelling interest in knowing what happened, and it appears a trial is the only way that will happen.