A former top Clinton aide and senior Democratic official has been sentenced after pleading guilty to a sickening slew of child rape charges.
Gerald Steven “Steve” Pigeon, the former chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party, received a prison sentence for the rape of a 9-year-old girl, the Erie District Attorney’s Office announced on Friday.
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Pigon was close friends with the most senior member of the Democratic Party, including the Clintons, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Nancy Pelosi.
Buffalo News reports: But on Friday, he stood before a judge in a Buffalo courtroom as a criminal.
Pigeon, 63, pleaded guilty in November to first-degree sexual abuse of a child, and State Supreme Court Justice M. William Boller was to sentence him to one year in jail.
But before that, the girl whom Pigeon admitted to abusing finally had her say, two and a half years after coming forward with shocking allegations.
She was 9 when it happened, according to previous court proceedings. A fourth-grader. Someone Pigeon knew.
A prosecutor said Friday the sexual abuse took place between Nov. 23, 2016 and Christmas of that year – he was taking her out as a Christmas celebration.
The girl, now a teenager, was in the gallery Friday morning, surrounded by loved ones. Another girl held her hand and at times stroked her cheeks.
The girl had planned to read her own statement but decided to have one of the prosecutors, Chief Cathleen M. Roemer of the Buffalo City Court Bureau, read it aloud in court for her.
The Buffalo News is not identifying the girl because she was the juvenile victim of a sex crime.
“I remember for the first year after it happened, I honestly didn’t know what actually happened,” Roemer read from the girl’s letter addressed to Boller. “I knew it was wrong and that it shouldn’t have happened. But I was a child. I didn’t know what rape was or what it meant.”
She continued: “The day I found out what actually happened to me, I remember feeling so disgusted and scared.”
She said she wanted to tell her mother, but then remembered Pigeon warning her that he would “hurt my mother and my brother.”
The girl said she went from a “happy little girl to someone my family couldn’t even recognize.”
She attempted suicide twice, once when she was 10 and then when she was 12. She fell in with a bad crowd and acted out. She would sneak out of the house and use drugs and alcohol.
“Just so I could feel absolutely nothing,” she said.
She talked about the years of trauma she has endured. She has panic attacks and nightmares. She remembered waking up from one sweating and out of breath at 3 a.m. and needing to take a shower “because of how gross I felt.”
Her relationships have been affected, she said, even with with her mother. “There was a point I couldn’t even look at her. Part of me felt that she should have known what was happening and I blamed her for my suffering,” she said.
“You took away practically my entire childhood,” she said.
The girl came forward with her accusations against Pigeon in the summer of 2021.
He was charged in December 2021 after being indicted on six charges, including two counts of predatory sexual assault against a child, a class A felony that has the potential to carry a life sentence, if he was convicted. He also was charged with one count each of first-degree rape, first-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse.
The case was headed for trial, with jury selection set to begin Dec. 4, 2023.
In the months prior, attorneys on both sides traded accusations of misconduct in court as they sharpened the cases they plan to bring before a jury. But on Nov. 6, in a surprise move, Pigeon pleaded guilty to a single felony count of first-degree sex abuse of a child under the age of 11. Under the plea agreement, to which the victim and her family consented, he would spend 364 days in a county jail.
This will be Pigeon’s third stint behind bars in recent years.
In July 2022, he was sentenced to four months in federal prison followed by one year of supervised release for making an illegal political donation.
That sentencing resulted from Pigeon’s guilty plea in October 2018, when he admitted that he conspired to arrange an illegal political donation to Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign on behalf of the Canadian founder of an online gambling business. Neither the governor nor his campaign were implicated in the case.
He was sentenced the following day in a state case to one year in prison for bribing State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek. He admitted he gave the judge things like free tickets to box seats at Buffalo Sabres games and tried to help Michalek get jobs for family members. As part of the scheme, Pigeon got information, including nonpublic information, about lawsuits to which he was connected.
Those sentences were served concurrently.
During Friday’s hearing, Boller referred to letters that family members of the victim sent to him in which they questioned why Pigeon was sentenced to just one year.
Boller reminded the family members in the gallery that the victim and her family agreed to the sentencing guidelines. “This is not the judicial system that is to be criticized,” Boller said. “This is what the victim and the parties agreed to.”
The victim, in closing her statement, said she does wish Pigeon would spend the rest of his life in prison for what he did to her.
“But we don’t always get exactly what we want,” she said in her statement. “I was so relieved after three long years to finally have some justice for myself.”
Roemer, in addressing the judge, praised the victim for her courage in coming forward.
“The sexual assault of a child is a completely evil act. It is one without justification or redemption. But this case is much more than that. Here, the defendant, a powerful man cloaked in the protection of wealth and political influence undoubtedly thought he could do whatever he wanted. And either no one would believe the victim or that no one would care. The courage required to stand up to the rich, the powerful and the influential is something that many adults in this community would not have had,” Roemer said.
“The defendant, with his political influence, his political ties and friends talked to the media, criticizing the victim’s integrity and mental health,” Roemer said. The girl “didn’t just survive a sexual assault. She survived three years of the defendant’s political friends criticizing her family, her character and her sanity.”
It didn’t work, Roemer said. “The truth is a powerful thing. And truth comes to light at trial. That is likely why the defense reached out to the Erie County District Attorney’s before this matter was to go to trial” and offered to plead.
Roemer said the girl has found closure in Pigeon admitting in open court to sexually abusing her.
Roemer said she hoped Pigeon would finally apologize.
The judge gave him the opportunity to make a statement before he was formally sentenced.
Pigeon, wearing a navy suit, stood and declined.
“No apology?” Boller asked.
“Not at this time,” he quietly said.
“Wow,” a man in the gallery could be heard saying.
Boller began reading the sentence: Pigeon will spend the next 364 days in the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden, possibly less for good behavior, and would have to pay a list of fees. They discussed that a hearing needed to be scheduled prior to his release because he will have to register as a sex offender.
As Boller spoke, a court officer put handcuffs on Pigeon’s wrists, behind his back. He was led out of the courtroom but then the prosecutors asked him to be returned to confirm an order of protection to prevent Pigeon from contacting the girl or her family until 2031.
Then he was led out of court again, this time headed for a jail cell.
After the hearing, District Attorney John Flynn spoke to reporters about the case.
“There are many people in this country … who reach a pinnacle of their profession, and then do something wrong … and then the higher you are in your profession, the farther you fall,” Flynn said. “This is a pretty big fall.”