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Steve Pigeon out on bail

Bail set for former Erie County Democratic Chairman and well known political operative accused of raping a child. New details emerge about accuser.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The attorney representing former Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Pigeon said his client has been released from jail Monday after a judge set bail in the case. 

Pigeon had been held since last Friday when he was charged under a sealed indictment with raping a child, who claims the incident occurred five years ago when they were under the age of 11.

Pigeon, 61, faces charges including Predatory Sexual Assault Against a Child, conviction upon which could land him in prison for the rest of his life, as well as Rape in the First Degree, Criminal Sexual Act, Sexual Abuse, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child.

State Supreme Court Justice William Boller, after hearing arguments in court Monday morning, set Pigeon's bail at $250,000 cash, or $500,000 fully secured bond, or $750,000 unsecured bond.

The granting of bail came over the objection of prosecutors who cited the seriousness of the alleged crimes as one reason why Pigeon should be remanded to jail without bail pending his trial.

"We expect him out today," said Pigeons attorney Paul Cambria on his way out of the courthouse after bail was set, adding that, "Steve vehemently denies these charges we’ve indicated that and we’re gonna move forward, do our job, and let the courts make their decisions."  

The Argument for Bail

Cambria spoke first at the hearing and began his argument by raising the issue of New York's bail reform laws which went into effect last January, and which require the least restrictive means to be imposed on individuals eligible for bail. He also noted that under the reforms, even those charged with murder are eligible for bail.

"The only issue is what if any conditions would be necessary in order to ensure his return to court," said Cambria.  "Because it is clear that bail can be issued for a felony of this grade, and in fact, someone could even be released on their own recognizance (with no bail) be released for a felony of this grade."

To further bolster his argument that his client poses no risk of flight, Cambria noted that Pigeon has been on release for several years while facing unrelated federal charges for illegal political donations, and state charges of bribing a judge. In all that time, he noted, Pigeon never failed to appear in court and continues to be under the supervision of probation officers who know his whereabouts.

Pigeon accepted plea bargains in those cases for which he awaits sentencing.

"I point this out to the court to demonstrate the fact this is not someone who will fail to appear," said Cambria, who also noted that Pigeon turned himself in to authorities after learning of these latest charges.

"The likelihood of his not appearing in court in connection with this matter is nil for a number of reasons," said Cambria. "There's not only his history of appearing but in addition, if he did not appear he would violate both the federal and the state agreements and he would put those very favorable dispositions in jeopardy... so the chances of him not appearing are slim to none."


Prosecutor Argued for Pigeon to be Held

"Obviously the people take a different position considering the facts and circumstances as they exist in this case," began Assistant Erie County District Attorney Patrick Swanson, in laying out why the prosecution felt Pigeon should remain held without bail.

Swanson noted the serious nature of the charges, and while acknowledging that defendants facing such serious charges are indeed are eligible for bail under New York's bail reforms, Swanson insisted, "that rarely happens. In cases of this severity, remand is appropriate and frequent."

He also made mention of the charges Pigeon faces in both federal and state courts but eschewed Cambria's suggestion that his client's consistent appearance for those charges has high relevance to the case at hand.

"Those are minor matters. His cooperation in those are self-serving," said Swanson, insisting as well that, "the offenses he (Cambria) plead to call in to question his trustworthiness. They are crimes of dishonesty and he has cooperated in those matters as outlined by Mr. Cambria for a more lenient sentence."

"In other words," continued Swanson, "he had something to gain to stay in contact with authorities and abide by the terms of his release and conditions. In this matter, there are no such conditions or agreement, and what we have before the court are very serious matters and because of that we are asking the defendant be remanded."

Pigeon's Visit to Mother of Alleged Victim

Swanson said another relevant factor to deny Pigeon bail was his attempts to contact the mother of his alleged victim this summer, which turned to be a time period shortly after state police began investigating the alleged victim's claims.

This included text messages in which Pigeon allegedly demanded why she nor her child would return his calls, and that because of it he was ready "to do something drastic." 

Swanson also said Pigeon showed up at his accusers' door, "banging on it" demanding to speak with them. A few days later, according to Swanson, Pigeon's longtime fellow political operative Gary Parenti and another unidentified man paid a similar call to the house, which resulted in a 911 call from the alleged victim's mother to local police.

Cambria, however, said due to the nature of the relationship between Pigeon, his accuser, and that person's mother, it would not have been unusual for him to be in contact with them, or attempt to find out why they stopped taking his calls or communicating with him.

"And besides, there was no contact with the person who is the subject of these allegations...they (prosecutors) were trying to blow that out of proportion as to what the significance was...so there is a total disconnect there. And, any concerns can be resolved and have been resolved by the (court-ordered) order of protection which Mr. Pigeon agreed to," Cambria said.

More Revealed About the Alleged Victim

When announcing the charges against Pigeon on Friday, prosecutors only said Pigeon's alleged victim was less than 11 years old at the time he is accused of assaulting them in 2016, and that the two were known to each other.

According to District Attorney John Flynn, the allegations only surfaced this past July, when the alleged victim told an adult, who then contacted her family attorney, who then contacted Flynn.

During Monday's bail hearing it was acknowledged that Pigeon's accuser is related to him. However, because it is 2 On Your Side's policy not to name potential victims of sexual abuse without their consent, we are omitting further details which may identify them.


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