- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - A Democratic political operative pleaded not guilty Thursday to bribery and other charges filed in a New York corruption probe that led to the resignation of a state Supreme Court judge a day earlier.

G. Steven Pigeon was arraigned on a nine-count indictment that accuses him of offering favors and gifts worth more than $10,000 to Judge John Michalek, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to accepting bribes from 2012 to 2015 and is to be sentenced Sept. 21.

“Steve Pigeon engaged in a multiyear scheme to bribe a sitting state judge in an effort to win access and favors for his clients and associates,” said a statement from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Pigeon, 55, was released on bond after surrendering his passport. His attorney said Pigeon declined a plea offer and looked forward to trial. Pigeon is due back in court Sept. 12.

“He vehemently denies any wrongdoing,” defense attorney Paul Cambria said after the hearing.

Pigeon, a lawyer who does consulting work, is former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party. He left court without commenting.

He is charged with two counts of bribery, six counts of rewarding official misconduct and one count of grand larceny. The most serious charge, second-degree bribery, carries a potential prison term of 15 years.

Prosecutors allege Pigeon provided Michalek with box seats to two Buffalo Sabres hockey games and a $1,000-per-head political fundraiser while Pigeon had an interest in several civil cases before the judge. He also agreed to help Michalek pursue an appellate court appointment and to find jobs for two of the judge’s relatives, according to the indictment.

The larceny charge stems from a $5,000 consulting fee prosecutors say Pigeon collected after Michalek appointed an attorney of Pigeon’s choosing to a lucrative receivership.

“The proof against him is very strong,” Assistant Attorney General Susan Sadinsky told Judge Donald Cerio Jr. in requesting bail be set at $25,000. Cerio instead set bail at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

Federal and state law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Pigeon’s Buffalo condominium in May 2015, exiting after several hours with numerous cardboard boxes.

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