State prosecutors pursing bribery and corruption charges against G. Steven Pigeon saw their case get stronger Friday when a judge reversed his earlier decision to suppress email evidence that they believe incriminates the once-powerful Democratic political operative.
In October, State Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio Jr. suppressed the emails because state investigators waited more than 10 days to execute court-ordered warrants that allowed them to search computers at Pigeon's home and office.
The judge, however, granted prosecutors' request to reargue the suppression opinion. Pigeon appealed that decision.
After the Appellate Division dismissed Pigeon’s appeal in February, prosecutors reargued their position in court papers, prompting Cerio to reverse his ruling on Friday.
While prosecutors were pleased with the decision, Pigeon's defense attorney, Paul Cambria, called the judge's reversal "a cardinal mistake on his part. He had it right the first time."
Cambria disputed the judge's position in Friday's decision that, Cambria said, "suppression wasn't the appropriate remedy" for the issue of the email evidence.
"That's the only remedy," Cambria said. He added that he is looking into whether he should appeal the latest decision, request leave to reargue his case before Cerio, or perhaps wait to see if a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a similar case, expected in June, resolves the issue.
The email evidence is considered key to the State Attorney General's case against the former Erie County Democratic chairman, and it was used to help obtain a 2016 indictment against Pigeon and others on corruption charges.
Those corruption charges, contested by Pigeon, involved the alleged bribery of a former state judge, John A. Michalek. The email evidence prompted Michalek to resign from his $193,000-a-year job, plead guilty to felony bribery charges and agree to become a state witness against Pigeon. Michalek is still awaiting sentencing.
The communications that led to the state indictment last year were emails between Pigeon and Michalek.
After Michalek testified before a grand jury, Pigeon last June was indicted on nine felony counts of bribery, rewarding official misconduct and grand larceny by extortion. Michalek pleaded guilty to receiving bribes and offering a false instrument for filing in court.
In their court papers, state prosecutors frequently quoted a series of emails between Pigeon and Michalek.
Both men face possible prison terms – up to seven years for Michalek and up to 15 for Pigeon.