Democrat Strategist Steve Pigeon Accused of Rape; DA Says ‘It’s a Child’s Word Versus His Word’

I am Steve Pigeon’s friend. We have been friends for more than 20 years. He recruited me as a PR consultant for NXIVM in 2007. Even though NXIVM tried to target me, Pigeon remained my friend throughout this time. When I accelerated my attack on NXIVM and its founder Keith Raniere in 2017, Pigeon helped me. Raniere is now serving a prison sentence of 120 years. 

BUFFALO, NY: On December 2, 2021, G. Steven Pigeon’s life changed. 

The Erie County District Attorney charged Pigeon, 61, with rape and sexual assault of a child. The charges stemmed from a single incident that allegedly took place five years earlier.

The District Attorney did not disclose the child’s name, age, or gender. However, the charges state the child was under 11 when the alleged incident occurred. The indictment alleges the incident happened between November and December 2016.

The local media reported the child is a girl. The prosecution revealed at Pigeon’s bail hearing that she was a family member. Pigeon does not have any children.

There is no allegation that Pigeon repeated or tried to repeat the charged offenses before or after the alleged one-time incident.

The Eric County District Attorney charged Pigeon with two counts of sexual assault against a child, one count of rape, one count of criminal sexual act, one count of sexual abuse, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

Pigeon could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of all charges against him.

District Attorney John J. Flynn, Jr. said, “This is big boy stuff here. OK? This is rape; this isn’t child molestation. This is rape, and so when we’re talking at that level, all right, we’re talking life in prison.”

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn

Based on Flynn’s statements at a press conference, there seems to be no physical evidence, no DNA, no rape kit, no hospital records, no mandated reporter, and no confirmation from another witness.

WGRZ TV reporter Dave McKinley asked Flynn, “Do you have anything more than the word and allegation of a child?”

Flynn replied, “I’m not going to talk about any other evidence, but I have her word, though.”

Steve Pigeon surrendered to the police on December 2, 2021.

According to Flynn, a lack of corroborating evidence is not unusual in child rape cases. It can be hard to find evidence to support the child’s story.

“What all these cases come down to [is] a child’s going to say something,” Flynn told the press. “I presume he’s going to say something: ‘it didn’t happen.’ All right. At the end of the day, it’s a child’s word versus his word, and I believe the child. I’m standing with the child, and I’m going to get the child justice.”

Pigeon has no previous accusations of sex-related or violent crimes. However, he has two felony convictions related to his role as a political consultant and lawyer. Because of these convictions, New York State revoked his license to practice law.

Investigation

According to Flynn, the girl, now a teen, told her mother about the alleged incident four and a half years after it allegedly occurred.

Her mother told her lawyer, who in turn called him.

“After the lawyer called me,” Flynn said, “I then gave it to my investigators and gave it to my attorneys, and they went from there.”

A several-month investigation followed. The investigators did not interview Pigeon.

Delayed Reporting Defense

Frank LoTempio III, an attorney from Buffalo, said the case against Pigeon might be challenging to prosecute. LoTempio is not representing Pigeon in the case.

“I’ve defended these cases,” LoTempio told WGRZ, “and any time you have somebody – that claim is five years old – it’s a big deal… It’s the first thing the defense attorney is going to start to question… Why didn’t this come out earlier? How come it just came out? Who was the outcry witness? Did the outcry witness then make her suggest that more happened than actually did happen? It’s a big deal.”

The District Attorney took a different viewpoint on delayed reporting.

Flynn explained, “It’s not unusual in our child sex abuse cases. The majority of the time, quite frankly, if you talk to experts on this, they will tell you that there is delayed reporting. They will tell you that sometimes it takes years and years before the child tells someone or reports it okay.

“That’s very common that you, I mean again, you look, you look at all the child, all the clergy cases, and all the, you know, all the other Boy Scout, Girl Scout, all the other, you know, youth cases that you’ve seen over the course of the past five years, and there’s obviously been a lot of them, okay. You will see, if not the majority, a great number of them. The victim does not tell anyone, and they hold it in for years and years. Like that’s very common.”

Other Evidence

During his WGRZ TV appearance, Attorney LoTempio said he believed the prosecutors would need more evidence beyond the alleged victim’s word.

“There has to be some documentation, some witnesses, a confession,” he said, “though not to a police agency, but even to the mother or the father of the child. That’s what I would assume.”

At his press conference, Flynn was asked again if he had more evidence than the word of a child.

A reporter asked, “Okay, do you have anything more than that? I’m not asking what you have, but I mean you must to bring a charge like this.”

Flynn said, “The people who allegedly went to the house. That’s some more right there. That to me shows consciousness of guilt.”

Flynn named three incidents:

“There was a text message from Mr. Pigeon to an individual in the orbit of the victim saying that allegedly, ‘Someone needs to contact me; someone needs to reach out to me. What’s going on?’…

“There was a time when he allegedly came to the home of the victim, and then it was a third time where allegedly two of his friends without him came to the home of the victim… I don’t want to make it like they came there to intimidate anyone. I think it was more of going there to say, “Hey, what’s going on?”

ADA Patrick Swanson discussed a text message in court while arguing against bail for Pigeon.

Assistant DA Patrick Swanson amplified Flynn’s comments at Pigeon’s bail hearing.

Swanson told the court that Pigeon texted “one of the victim’s family members, who the defendant is close with, to inquire about what was going on and why no one was returning calls. And he stated specifically, and I quote, ‘Why won’t you call? I am ready to do something drastic.’ And ‘You have to talk to me.'”

When he didn’t get a reply, Pigeon “showed up at the victim’s residence, uninvited and unannounced, where the defendant was banging on the front door, desiring to speak to the victim and the victim’s mother,” Swanson told the court.

Swanson said two of Pigeon’s friends came to the house a few days later, which led to a 911 call from the alleged victim’s mother to local police.

Steve Pigeon with his lawyer Paul Cambria.

Pigeon’s lawyer, Paul Cambria, denied his client tried to speak to the alleged victim. He also said the text was not suspicious. Cambria added that the alleged victim’s mother is a close relative of Pigeon.

“There was never any intention to contact the person involved in the indictment,” Cambria said. “He sent a text message to several members of his family, a general message… it had nothing specifically to do with the subject of this indictment.”

Gary Parenti went to the alleged victim’s house.

Gary Parenti was one of the two friends who went to the mother’s house.

“We just wanted to find out why his family stopped communicating with Steve and would not respond to his texts,” Parenti said. “They were close and in contact regularly. Then, they suddenly stopped communicating, with no response to texts. It had never happened before. I thought the family might be in trouble.”

Parenti said he’d known the family for 30 years and had been to the house many times.

A reporter asked Flynn, “Do you think [Pigeon and his friends] had been tipped off that there was some sort of investigation, or [do] you think that they potentially just got nervous because this family stopped having communications with him?”

Flynn replied, “We believe that he thought or knew that something was going on because the victim’s, let’s call it, ‘orbit of area,’ was not responding to his calls and texts.”

Pigeon Makes Bail

Pigeon was held at the Erie County Holding Center for four days pending a bail hearing.

While Pigeon was in custody, Flynn said, “I do not believe that Mr. Pigeon should be out of jail. I believe he should be in jail for the rest of his life.”

Judge William Boller set bail for Pigeon at $750,000.  Pigeon made bail.

After his release, Cambria told the media his client “vehemently denies these charges. We have indicated that, and we will move forward and let the courts decide.”

Pigeon’s Aunt Speaks

Rita Gralike, 90, is a relative of the alleged victim, her mother, and Pigeon. She is Pigeon’s maternal aunt. Gralike has known Pigeon and the alleged victim’s mother all their lives. Pigeon grew up with Gralike’s children in St. Louis.

“First and foremost, this is completely out of character for Steven,” Gralike said. “He does not act this way, never has. He is not the type of person, and it doesn’t work that way. You never have just one accusation of child molestation. Never before and never again.”

Gralike, the mother of four sons, grandmother, and great-grandmother, was head of staff at the St. Louis office of former Missouri governor Joseph Teasdale.

Rita and Donald Gralike

Gralike’s late husband, Donald, served in the Missouri House of Representatives for ten years and in the state Senate for four years. Donald was president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Joseph Simeone, Gralike’s late brother, was chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals and justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

According to the St. Louis Dispatch, Judge Simeone “helped bring the Missouri judiciary into the modern age.” His portrait hangs in the state capitol.

“I would like to say that a family like ours would not absolve anyone guilty of molestation,” Gralike said.

She said she did not believe the child’s story was true, and expressed concern that her mother influenced her. Gralike said her mother had made many accusations against others in the past.

“The mother has a history of instability. If you look at the number of times she called the police, it tells you a lot. She even called the police on her own father,” Gralike said of the alleged victim’s mother.

“I suspect there was some jealousy. She was resentful of Steve,” Gralike said. “The commonsense thing to do, and what most people would do is go to the family member and ask for their reaction to this kind of accusation! Stable people don’t throw nasty accusations into a public arena without giving the accused at least the chance to discuss it sensibly.

“Why would they give credibility to a child after having known Steve all their lives? Why would they even give any credence to this child like that?”

When asked why the child would make such an allegation, Gralike said, “If this child were indeed molested, I would suspect someone else in the family was responsible. Something may have happened to her with someone else, and Steve is the scapegoat. That’s what I would be looking for if I was on the jury.”

When asked if she would trust Pigeon with children, Gralike replied, “I would trust him with any of my great-grandchildren. I’m trying to get Steve to move to St. Louis. So, he could be close to our kids.”

Gralike added, “I am the last of my birth family. So, I am the matriarch of this family. And I don’t want to go to my grave seeing this false accusation brought against my nephew. I know it’s not true.”

Gralike Text Sent to Family

Gralike shared a text she wrote to family members of the alleged victim.

It read: “Steve has always been good to all of you. You evidently had sufficient trust in him to allow Steve to take [another child in the family, name redacted] with him on any number of occasions. And not once was there any reason to think he was nothing more than a very devoted Uncle.

“In the time you and the rest of you have known and been close to Steve, have any of you had any reason to believe he could have done such a thing?… I am extremely disappointed in the actions taken against a good man. Even when he is proven innocent of these charges, people will always look at him and wonder… He’ll never be free of the scandal. And did the mother stop to think of the Pandora’s box she has opened for the rest of the family? During this trial, that little girl is going to have to take the stand and answer questions that will scar her psyche for the rest of her days….

“This is a travesty. I am forced to question [the] mother’s emotional stability to have cut all ties to her flesh and blood and accuse this kind man who has done nothing but help all of his family all their lives…”

Politics Not Involved

Steve Pigeon is a well-known and controversial figure in Western New York politics.

A reporter asked DA Flynn if Pigeon “ever worked for you, and does that give you a conflict?”

“I know him obviously,” Flynn said. “I would categorize our relationship as business acquaintances. Since our business was/is political… I would categorize [it as] a business/political acquaintance. I do not believe that I have seen him or… spoke to him in the past six years.”

“So, he never worked for your campaign?” the reporter asked.

Flynn said, “I definitely did not see him at all or speak to him at all when I was running [for DA] in 2016, and then, since I’ve taken over, I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen him or been in his presence in the past five years. So, I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen him or spoken to him in six years. Before that, I was probably in his company, maybe five to ten times total.

“I had lunch with him and another person on two occasions, maybe ten years ago, just a social matter. So, yeah, I am definitely an acquaintance of his, but again I’ve probably seen him five times my whole life and haven’t seen him in the past six years, so that, again, that gives me no pause at all.”

Pigeon’s Political Career

Pigeon has had a long career as a lawyer, consultant, strategist, campaign manager, and fundraiser. He worked for presidential candidates from 1972 to 2012, starting as a volunteer for George McGovern’s campaign in Buffalo.

Steve Pigeon and George McGovern

In 1980, Pigeon worked on Ted Kennedy’s New Hampshire primary effort. Afterward, he returned to Buffalo to help him in the primary there.

Steve Pigeon and Ted Kennedy

L-r; Ted Kennedy, Steve Pigeon, his late mother Barbara Pigeon, and Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John F Kennedy.

Steve Pigeon with Jimmy Carter

When Kennedy ended his campaign, Pigeon worked on Carter’s presidential campaign.

He served in Gary Hart’s presidential campaign in 1984.

 

Gary Hart and Steve Pigeon

Voters elected Pigeon to the Erie County Legislature in 1988 and re-elected him in 1990.

Steve Pigeon with friends. The late Chris Walsh, who Pigeon described as a ‘second father,” Carl Paladino, one of his oldest friends, and the late Bufflao Councilmember David Rutecki, another long-term close friend. Pigeon maintained friendships with Paladino and his arch rival Andrew Cuomo.

He served in Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1991.

Steve Pigeon with Hillary and Bill Clinton

 

Steve Pigeon with Donna Shalala

He was executive assistant to Donna Shalala, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Clinton administration, in 1993.

He also served on the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, headed by Hillary Clinton.

In 1996, the elected committee members elected Pigeon as the Democratic Chairman of Erie County.

Erie County in Western NY is located on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and has a population of 918,702.

He was one of the only county chairmen in New York State to endorse Charles Schumer for US Senate over the mainstream party’s choice, Geraldine Ferraro.

He also endorsed another longshot, Eliot Spitzer, for NYS Attorney General in 1998.  Both candidates won office.

Steve Pigeon with Charles Schumer, Erie County Executive Dennis Gorski, and Elliot Spitzer

His leadership style as a party boss earned him friends and enemies, including Michael Pietruszka. The source of hostility is that Pigeon endorsed Eugene Fahey over Pietruszka for the New York State Supreme Court, when both were judges at Buffalo City Court.

Due to Pigeon’s support, Fahey was elected to the NY State Supreme Court and later appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals. Pietruszka had to settle for a judgeship in Erie County.

A coalition of Democrats, the Task Force to Renew the Democratic Party, was organized in 2000 to oust Pigeon as party chairman. One of the coalition leaders was Michael Keane. He had sought Pigeon’s endorsement for Buffalo Comptroller but Pigeon endorsed another candidate instead.  Keane is the current Deputy District Attorney, the second in command under Flynn, and is expected to run for DA in 2024.

Pigeon survived the coup attempt, and in a controversial vote, committee members again reelected Pigeon as their party chairman.


Pigeon started working with Andrew Cuomo during the administration of his late father, Mario Cuomo.

He was one of the only county chairmen to support Andrew Cuomo’s unsuccessful gubernatorial primary bid in 2002.

The coalition to oust Pigeon came back in full force in 2002, and Pigeon decided not to run for re-election.

After retiring as party boss, Pigeon became an enemy of the local Democratic Party. He supported candidates to run against endorsed Democrats in primaries. Sometimes, he supported Republicans in general elections.

In 2003, Pigeon helped B. Thomas Golisano, the billionaire founder of Paychex Corp, one of his friends and business associates, rescue the NHL hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres, from bankruptcy. Golisano’s purchase of the Sabres prevented the franchise from moving outside Western NY.

Pigeon worked as a senior member of longtime family friedd, Dick Gephardt’s presidential campaign in 2004.

He was one of the early supporters of Byron Brown, Buffalo’s current mayor.

Pigeon is with his predecessor as party chairman Vince Sorrentino [r] and Bryon Brown [l]

He was one of the nation’s top fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Steve Pigeon with Hillary Clinton at her DC home.

Over the years, he helped raise millions for the Clinton campaigns and their foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative. Billionaire Golisano was one of the founding donors.

B. Thomas Golisano, Bill Clinton and Steve Pigeon at Clinton’s home in New York.

Pigeon raised money for Obama’s presidential run after he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary. In addition, he helped secure a donation of $1 million for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

 

Steve Pigeon and Barack Obama

Steve Pigeon with Judge Frank Sedita II. Pigeon worked to get his son elected District Attorney.

Pigeon Opposed Flynn in 2008

Although Pigeon never worked for the DA John Flynn on his campaigns, Pigeon worked against him when Flynn first sought office in 2008.

Flynn was the front-runner. Pigeon supported another Democrat, Frank Sedita III. Using his connections with the Conservative and Independence parties, Pigeon helped Sedita secure their support.

Pigeon blocked Flynn’s endorsement by the Erie County Democratic Party Executive Committee, a group primarily made up of anti-Pigeon Democrats. It was a dilemma for Democrats opposed to Pigeon. Sedita would run against Flynn in the Democratic primary if the Party endorsed Flynn. If Flynn defeated Sedita in the primary, Sedita would still be on the Conservative and Independence lines ballot. Minor party lines can account for 10-15 percent of the votes in the general election. A three-way race could hand the election to the Republican, Diane LaVallee.

Flynn stepped aside as a candidate for DA. The Erie County Democratic Party Executive Committee endorsed Sedita, who won the general election and defeated LaVallee.

Handing Republicans Victory

In 2009, Pigeon helped engineer the majority control of the Erie County legislature, from a Democrat majority to a coalition of Republicans and Pigeon-friendly Democrats. The power shift was especially galling to Democrats, as the party holds a two-to-one plurality over Republicans in the county.

Statewide, Pigeon helped engineer victories for Democratic candidates in the State Senate by raising more than $4 million for their campaigns. The money came primarily from billionaire Golisano. The condition for support was that Democrats would pay more attention to upstate New York instead of its usual lopsided New York City-centric governance.

For the first time in four decades, Democrats won control of the State Senate.

After winning control, Pigeon and Golisano felt the New York City Democrats were not honoring their deal to consider upstate New York as little more than their fiefdom.

Republican State Senator George Maziarz and Steve Pigeon

Pigeon shocked the Democrats when he arranged the “coup” of 2009, wresting control of the Senate from Democrats to a coalition of Republicans and a few Democrats.

One of the casualties was then State Senator Eric Schneiderman, from Manhattan, who was to be deputy leader.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. recalled, “In 2009 when the coup… happened, the head behind it was Steve Pigeon. Eric Schneiderman was one of the shining stars in the Senate Democratic conference, and from that time, there has been bad blood.”

The following year, Schneiderman quit the Senate and ran for attorney general. Pigeon worked against him and supported Kathleen Rice, who narrowly lost to Schneiderman.

In 2010, Pigeon again supported Andrew Cuomo as governor of New York State. The campaign was successful.

 

 

The late Dennis Gorski, Roger Stone, and Steve Pigeon

Steve Pigeon, General Wesley Clark, and Gary Parenti

Steve Pigeon with union leader Mike Fitzpatrick

Pigeon’s star was on the rise over the next few years. He ventured into international politics and did business in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Ukraine, and Rumania. He worked with nationally known figures such as Roger Stone and Wesley Clark.

In 2013, Pigeon urged Gov. Cuomo to replace various state Republican appointees with Democrats. As a result, Diane LoVallee, Sedita’s Republican opponent for DA, lost her job at the Department of Tax and Finance.

She became a prosecutor for Pigeon’s enemy, NYS Attorney General Schneiderman.

It was not hard to get investigations launched with many local enemies and an attorney general with undisguised resentment.

A joint task force of state and federal investigators was formed to investigate Pigeon. They sought violations of election laws, such as conspiring to exceed contributions limits, concealing donors, and making false filings.

In 2015, state and federal law enforcement officers raided Pigeon’s penthouse. Judge Pietruszka, who failed to get Pigeon’s endorsement 15 years earlier, signed the search warrant.

Flynn Runs Again for DA; Pigeon Opposes Him

In 2016, eight years after being thwarted by Pigeon, Flynn entered the race again as a Democratic candidate for the Erie County DA.

Pigeon supported Flynn’s opponent, Michael Flaherty. In the Democratic primary. A third candidate in the race, Mark Sacha, tied Pigeon to Flaherty.

Pigeon became a distraction, and some said liability for Flaherty. Flynn won the Democratic primary and the general election.

After a one-year investigation, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a nine-count indictment against Pigeon on bribery and extortion charges.

Diane LoVallee, who lost her job at the Department of Taxation and Finance by Pigeon’s political maneuvering, was assigned by Pigeon-enemy Schneiderman as one of two prosecutors on the case.

Former NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

As a lawyer, Pigeon had two clients with cases before former State Supreme Court Judge John Michalek when he gave the judge and his wife four Buffalo Sabres hockey tickets and a $1000 free ticket to a political fundraiser he hosted.

The judge, who had known Pigeon since he was a teenager, actively sought Pigeon’s help with getting his son a job and his wife an appointment to an unpaid committee. Pigeon sent resumes to some of his contacts. Neither the son nor the wife got the positions they sought. Pigeon’s clients did not win their cases.

In addition to the state charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York charged Pigeon with soliciting an illegal donation for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014 re-election bid.  The feds alleged Pigeon helped the Canadian owner of an online gambling company buy a ticket to a $25,000 per person Cuomo fundraiser. Federal election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to political campaigns.

In 2018, Pigeon pleaded guilty to both federal and state charges. His convictions have a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Sentencing Delayed

On December 14, 2021, Pigeon was to be sentenced for his federal charges and in January 2022, for the state charges.

Pigeon’s sentencing dates were adjourned after the child’s rape charge. The trial is unlikely to start until 2023.

 

 

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