By Frank Parlato
Mark Sacha, the recently unsuccessful candidate for DA, has always maintained he was fired from his job as an assistant Erie County District Attorney, because he pushed his boss, then DA (now State Supreme Court Justice) Frank Sedita III, to pursue criminal charges for election law violations against political kingpin and attorney G. Steven Pigeon.
But court documents filed in a lawsuit Sacha pursued against Sedita paint a vastly different picture of why Sacha was fired.
Sacha, who started at the Erie County district attorney’s office in 1987, under DA Richard Arcara, was named deputy district attorney, the number three position in the office in 2000 by DA Frank Clark.
Sacha was close to Clark personally. Both had vacation homes in Chautauqua County and it was “just about every time (they went down to) Chautauqua that we socialized (with the Clark’s) as a family,” Sacha said in a deposition for his lawsuit against Sedita.
“He’s a bear for work and a very bright lawyer,” Clark once said of Sacha, “and he was fiercely loyal to me.”
On Saturday, Jan. 8, 2005, while Sacha was at Sisters Hospital with his dying father, Sacha called his wife, Lynn, to take his mother to visit his father at the hospital.
When Lynn Sacha left with her mother in law, their four children, 16, 15, 12 and nine, were alone in their Lancaster home.
Sometime that evening, 12-year-old Rachel Sacha was shot and killed in the family room by a bullet to her head from a rifle owned by her father, Mark. The trigger was pulled by her brother, Mark Sacha Jr., 15.
After learning of the shooting, Clark and his wife took the Sachas’ other two children into their home, while Mark Jr. was taken to Erie County Medical Center for observation because of emotional distress and trauma.
Within hours, Clark, who, as District Attorney, was responsible for the investigation of the girl’s death, explained to the Buffalo News, “Mark (Sacha, Sr.) had an old .22 rifle in back of one of the closets and the kids found it and took it out. They were playing with the gun and it went off. The boy had the gun, and it discharged. And it hit his sister, and she was killed. Awful.”
Clark told the News that the boy wouldn’t be charged because it was an accident.
Over the next few days, Lancaster police investigated. “(E)verything is leading us to the conclusion that the shooting was accidental,” Capt. Timothy R. Murphy, chief of detectives, told the News.
Absent from the discussion however was the answer to the questions of who loaded the gun, and whether the boy knew it was loaded when the trigger was pulled.
Sacha hired criminal defense attorney Joel Daniels and, according to sources familiar with the investigation, declined to allow prosecutors to interview him or his son.
While The Buffalo News quoted ethics lawyers who said Clark should disqualify himself and appoint a special prosecutor, Clark disagreed. “This case is not a close call,” he told the News. “There is not one scintilla of evidence indicating any criminal involvement on the part of this young man.”
Still, as he said it, authorities had not determined who loaded the gun.
“Right now, we don’t have facts sufficient to conclude that (Mark Jr.) knew the gun was loaded,” Clark said. “Without that, we have no criminal act, regardless of his age.”
Clark also said there was no basis for criminal liability against the father. “Here we have a gun hidden away in the back of a bedroom closet, and we don’t even know if it was loaded or not.”
“It’s unknown whether the gun was loaded or unloaded when the (15-year-old boy) found it,” confirmed Lancaster Police Capt. Timothy R. Murphy to the Buffalo News. “At this point, we’re not sure how it got loaded.”
Yet Murphy told the News, “Our investigation shows the shooting was accidental, so no charges have been filed.”
Clark again told the News, “Based on the facts I have now, there is nothing to lead me to the conclusion that it was anything but accidental.”
What has not been reported until now, is that the investigators came to believe the gun was already loaded when the boy took it in hand. And an open secret whispered inside certain circles at the DA’s office, some judicial circles and elsewhere, is that Mark Sacha Jr.’s Canisius High School locker was emptied and its contents inspected by an investigator with the DA’s office, with the knowledge and consent of the Rev. James P. Higgins, the former Canisius High School president.
According to a source close to the investigation, Chief Investigator Michael Cleary obtained the locker’s contents and presented these to Clark, and the then head of homicide, Sedita, and others at the DA’s office.
According to two sources familiar with the investigation, found among Mark Jr.’s locker room possessions were sketches, drawn prior to the shooting, of a person killing another person. One source, who claimed to have knowledge of the sketches, said it was a sketch of a boy shooting a girl.
As District Attorney, Clark had in his the discretion to convene a grand jury to investigate whether Mark Jr. intended to kill his sister. He declined to consider charging the boy as an adult. He referred the case to the Erie County Family Court where, in turn, it was referred to another county Family Court. The record was sealed, presumably after concluding –and according to sources – without interviewing the father or the son – that it was an accident under New York State Law.
As a DA, it has been often whispered in political circles that Clark never gave anyone a break greater than the one he gave his deputy, Mark Sacha.
An Election Law Investigation
In October 2007, The Buffalo News wrote a story about a disgruntled businessman, Michael Mullins, who donated some $60,000 toward the unsuccessful primary campaign of Paul Clark, a former West Seneca Town Supervisor (no relation to the DA Frank Clark) who ran for Erie County Executive in 2007.
In the News’ story Mullen literally incriminated himself when he admitted he paid a political pollster, Donald Turchiarelli, $20,000 which was stuffed inside “bags of cash” for a telephone operation and public opinion polling on behalf of the campaign of Paul Clark, and which was not reported to the state Board of Elections as required by law.
After reading the story in the Buffalo News, DA Clark assigned Sacha to conduct an investigation.
Over the course of the next 14 months, Sacha, assisted by ADA Marybeth DePasquale and investigators Tony Costantino, Jack Vickerd and Mark Stambach, issued subpoenas, interviewed Turchiarelli, Mullins and Timothy Clark, brother of Paul Clark, and executed a search warrant on Paul Clark’s former campaign headquarters and seized computers.
Sacha suspected that it was Pigeon who arranged, facilitated and attended a “clandestine” nighttime meeting at his mother’s home in West Seneca where Turchiarelli was allegedly hired by the Paul Clark campaign and informed he would be secretly paid by Mullins.
Pigeon said he only introduced the parties and did not broker, facilitate or was even privy to any of their subsequent arrangements. The meeting was for coffee, said Pigeon, who often introduces people who later forge their own relationships.
DA Clark Decides Not to Run Again
On May 12, 2008, during his final year of his third term, DA Frank Clark surprised some in the local political community when he announced he would not run for reelection. That same day, Sedita, then a Deputy District Attorney, announced his intention to run for the Democratic nomination.
Sacha told Artvoice that Sedita “came to my office within one half hour of (Clark’s) announcement….. I pledged my support and DA Sedita physically embraced me.”
Pigeon, a close friend of Sedita’s father, then Supreme Court Judge, the late Frank Sedita, Jr, realized that Frank Sedita III was not Democratic Party chairman Len Lenihan’s first choice – he wanted attorney (now current DA candidate) John Flynn.
Assistant District Attorney (ADA) (now Erie County Judge) Kenneth Case had already announced his candidacy. Mark Montour (now State Supreme Court Justice) was also rumored to be considering a run.
Pigeon devised an end run strategy to lock up the Democratic endorsement by successfully pursuing the endorsements of the Conservative and Independence party lines. The strategy worked. With two minor parties backing him, Sedita, not Flynn, became the Democratic Party candidate.
Pigeon comes into Sacha’s focus
As the investigation into the campaign of Paul Clark continued, bank records were reviewed which showed former County Executive, Joel A. Giambra paid $10,000 to a company owned by Pigeon. Pigeon’s company afterward paid Timothy Clark $10,000 for media consulting. Tim Clark afterward made a $9,000 loan to the campaign of his brother Paul Clark.
While both Pigeon and Clark reported their respective fees as earnings, and produced a contract for services rendered, Sacha discounted the contract as a fabrication and assumed it was an illegal scheme to launder $9,000 from Giambra to Paul Clark’s campaign.
On Aug. 12, Sacha advised DA Clark that he believed Timothy Clark and Pigeon were guilty of misdemeanor and felony violations of New York State Election and Penal Law.
On August 13, according to an affidavit signed by DA Frank Clark, Clark told Sacha that Pigeon was a witness, not a target in the investigation.
Yet on Aug. 15, Pigeon and Tim Clark were interviewed by DA investigators with agents from the FBI.
On October 2, 2008, DA Frank Clark met with Paul Clark’s attorney, Herbert L. Greenman, and informed Greenman — in the presence of Sacha – that Pigeon was not a target.
On November 26, 2008, Clark again confirmed to Greenman— in the presence of Sacha — that Pigeon would not be charged.
Clark told Sacha that the investigation should be wrapped up before he left office in a month and be concluded with Paul Clark, Mullins, and another man, Roger J. Peck, who had made an illegal contribution, accepting misdemeanor pleas.
This arrangement satisfied Paul Clark and his attorneys, Ralph Lorigo, who is also the Conservative Party Chairman, and Greenman.
But Sacha “objected to this arrangement” and “pointed out that … the evidence regarding Steve Pigeon was just beginning to come to light.” He was overruled by his boss Frank Clark.
Sedita is Elected
On November 4, 2008, Sedita was elected Erie County District Attorney. Soon afterward, Sacha attempted to report to Sedita on the now closed investigation into the Paul Clark campaign and especially Pigeon. Sedita told him to put his information in a memo.
In December, Paul Clark, Peck, and Mullins’ business, After Care Management Service, Inc., pleaded guilty to misdemeanors.
A Memo From Sacha to Sedita
On December 30, Sacha said he delivered a 13 page memo with 50 pages of supporting documentation to DA-elect Sedita, which Sacha later said detailed his allegations against Pigeon on the Paul Clark campaign case.
On January 1, 2009, Sedita was sworn in by his father, Justice Sedita, who afterward publicly thanked Pigeon for supporting his son’s candidacy.
Sedita Demotes Sacha
When Sedita assumed office, he had 86 assistant DAs, 14 investigators and 58 clerical workers. Among these were six deputy DA’s. On Jan. 2, Sedita fired Deputy DA’s, Yvonne Vertlieb and Molly Jo Musarra, for, he said in a court filing, their participation in a culture of bullying, backstabbing and bootlicking in the DA’s office.
Sedita also called Sacha into his office and told him he was being demoted from Deputy District Attorney to Assistant District Attorney in charge of arson.
Sedita Explains Sacha’s Demotion
Entered into evidence in the lawsuit of Sacha v. Sedita was an affidavit by Sedita where he addressed the reasons for Sacha’s demotion.
Sedita wrote, “After the tragedy involving his daughter, I observed that (Sacha’s) bullying and unprofessional behavior in the workplace continued and his behavior became increasingly erratic. I was therefore fearful of how he would react if he were terminated. I placed him in an arson specialist position where he would not supervise others, but would remain employed with pay and benefits similar to his previous position.
“… In other words, I increased the compensation package traditionally provided to an arson specialist when the plaintiff was given those duties.”
Sacha Has Bad Time in New Position
After his demotion, Sacha said he found his workplace to be a “campaign of harassment by Sedita, (John) Doscher and others in the office”. The campaign, he said, included denying Sacha leave days, forcing him to cancel vacation and demanding unnecessary medical information from Sacha when he requested family medical leave.
While Sacha was on vacation in July, he was supposed to make his county owned car available for county workers. Chief Investigator John Cleary, who was responsible for handling the usage of county vehicles, reported to Deputy DA John DeFranks that Sacha’s car was unavailable for County use.
Sacha said in his deposition in his case against Sedita, “John Cleary was …. trying to create the idea that I had taken the car on vacation and that he was gunning for me… and I said I would come back from Chautauqua… and bring the car in the next day.”
When Cleary questioned Sacha about the use of the vehicle, Sacha engaged in a “raging, profanity laced tirade against him in an open hallway in front of other employees” and threatened to assault him.
Following this, DeFranks made the decision to take Sacha’s county-provided vehicle away from him.
“I believed then, and believe today,” Sedita later wrote, “that (Sacha) had driven the county vehicle to his vacation home at Lake Chautauqua.”
Sacha Goes Public
By late September, Sacha had enough and he issued a startling statement to the press claiming Sedita and his former boss and old friend Frank Clark corruptly gave Pigeon a pass on election law violations because of the significant political power he wields.
His statement read in part: “I was demoted for reasons related to my work on the Paul Clark investigation and the District Attorney’s campaign for office… When Frank Sedita III took the oath of office… there were matters that had not been resolved. Those matters were addressed in my (Dec. 30) memorandum and that is why the present District Attorney used the power of his office to demote me, remove me and effectively end the investigation… G. Steven Pigeon … was involved in a number of transactions described in my memorandum of December 30, 2008…
“I call upon District Attorney Sedita to publicly acknowledge and rectify his mistakes. I call upon him to publicly acknowledge his abuse of discretion and … recuse himself from a case where he has a clear conflict of interest. (And) refer the case for review by an unbiased prosecutor…
“I call upon District Attorney Sedita to apologize both publicly and privately to myself and my family for his disgraceful conduct by retaliating against me.”
Sedita Explains his Position on Sacha going Public
With the release of this statement, the Buffalo News’s political reporter, Robert McCarthy, contacted Sedita.
“On the afternoon of September 26, 2009,” Sedita wrote in an affidavit, “I was telephoned by a reporter and first learned of the plaintiff’s purported desire to re-open the 2007 election investigation and prosecute G. Steven Pigeon.”
Sedita said later, “McCarthy told me that Mark Sacha said that I had demoted him because of his desire to prosecute Steve Pigeon. I said that was absolute nonsense.
“Bob McCarthy asked me, ‘Well, then why did you demote him?’ I said, ‘excuse my French, Because Mark’s a fucking asshole.’ McCarthy said, ‘Can I print that?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’
“I believe (McCarthy) said that Mark in his (Dec. 30) memo had called for the prosecution of Steve Pigeon. I was waylaid by the allegation, I mean, just thunderstruck. It came out of nowhere… After I read the memo (I realized) the memo didn’t call for Mr. Pigeon to be prosecuted. No, (it was) a memorandum describing a closed investigation.”
Sedita also wrote in a court filing that Sacha may have committed a felony since he “had given extensive detail from a grand jury investigation (and the products of grand jury subpoenas) to (McCarthy) a person not authorized to receive it under New York’s Criminal Procedure and Penal Laws which is a felony.”
Sacha Makes Headlines
The Sunday, Sept. 27th Buffalo News’ front page featured the headline, “Assistant DA says Clark and Sedita gave political kingpin Pigeon a pass,” and underneath it, “Sacha says prosecutors feared retribution”.
The News outlined Sacha’s charges that Sedita and Clark failed to prosecute Pigeon for allegedly laundering $9,000 from Giambra, and that Sacha charged that Sedita and Clark had ignored his Dec. 30, 2008 memo.
Sedita told the News that Sacha, “didn’t hand me the memo; that’s b.s. I’ve got a disgruntled employee here… (H)e never brought this to the attention of any of his superiors. He’s mad, he’s hurt, and he doesn’t like not being a deputy DA anymore.”
“That’s an out and out lie,” Sacha was quoted as saying, insisting he handed the memo to Sedita. “I’ll take a lie detector test. Let’s see if he will.”
Former DA Clark weighed in on the matter saying, “Pigeon was not an issue in anybody’s mind other than Sacha’s. For some reason, Mark was obsessed with Pigeon.”
A Dicey Week for Sacha
After the publication of the Sunday News’ story, Sacha took a vacation day Monday. On Tuesday, he returned to work.
Two investigators from the DA’s office, Costantino and Vickerd, met and escorted Sacha to a conference room normally used to interrogate defendants.
There Deputy District Attorney John DeFranks, Senior Trial Counsel Thomas Finnerty, and Senior Legal Counsel Michael Marion were waiting, along with investigators Stambach, Vickerd, and Constantino.
Sedita wrote of the meeting: “Given the serious nature of (Sacha’s) new allegations, I directed my staff to conduct an investigation to evaluate the veracity of (Sacha’s) allegations and whether there was a prosecutable case against Pigeon.
During the meeting Sacha said additional charges could be brought against Pigeon, but refused to answer what charges could be brought. He claimed there was evidence to support additional charges against Pigeon, but refused to describe what that evidence was.
Sacha asked one of the prosecutors, “What is it like to be working for Pigeon?”
When Sacha reported to work the next day, his computer and cell phone were deactivated and he was told by DeFranks that he was placed on paid leave starting immediately.
“This is all because I said something about Steve Pigeon,” Sacha told the Buffalo News.
Sedita Fires Sacha
After the meeting, DeFranks and Marion reviewed the December 30, 2008 memo and reported to Sedita that there was no prosecutable case against Pigeon.
DePasquale, who had assisted Sacha in the Paul Clark investigation, reported to Sedita that, in her professional opinion, there was insufficient evidence to establish that Pigeon committed any crime under state law.
Sedita observed that the December 30, 2008 memo does not recommend further prosecution of anyone, including Pigeon.
Yet Sacha claimed in the Buffalo News that the December 30, memo was not a close-out memorandum, but in effect a call-to-arms to prosecute Pigeon.
Sedita wrote, “I am convinced that (Sacha) does not genuinely believe that there exists sufficient credible evidence to prosecute Pigeon, but that he is using the local media to publish criminal allegations about Pigeon as a vehicle to divert attention from the true reasons I demoted him.”
Sedita also noted that Sacha “engaged in professional misconduct when he publicly accused Pigeon of committing a crime and called for his prosecution.”
The New York Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3.6(b)(4) prohibits lawyers from making a media statement of an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant or suspect in a criminal matter that could result in incarceration.’
On October 3, Sedita asked Doscher (Chief of the Special Investigations Bureau), Marion (Senior Legal Counsel), DeFranks (First Deputy District Attorney), Finnerty (Senior Trial Counsel), and Michael J. Flaherty, Jr., (Chief Counsel to the District Attorney) to advise him on what to do with Sacha.
Doscher said Sacha released information to the media that could have only been obtained from a grand jury subpoena, calling it a “gross violation” for a prosecutor and a possible felony.
Marion said Sacha engaged in prosecutorial misconduct.
DeFranks said Sacha had “a violent temper that causes office members to be afraid of him [especially] when he’s under pressure.”
All five men advised firing Sacha.
On Monday, Oct. 5, Sedita fired Sacha.
In January, 2010, Sacha sued Sedita and the Erie County District Attorney’s office in the US District Court for the Western District of New York, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging Sedita used his office as District Attorney to fire Sacha in order to punish him for “speaking as a citizen on issues of public concern regarding misconduct in the District Attorney’s office in violation of Sacha’s First Amendment rights.”
Sacha sought reinstatement to his position as Deputy District Attorney; lost wages and benefits and damages of $300,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs.
Sedita Explains why he demoted Sacha
On April 12th Sedita was deposed by Sacha’s attorney Matthew J. Fusco of Chamberlain D’Amanda Oppenheimer & Greenfield, LLP of Rochester.
During his examination, Sedita was candid when asked why he demoted Sacha on the first day of his administration.
Sedita said there was “a morale problem in the (DA’s) office and there were five people that I thought were chiefly responsible for it. I thought Mark was one of them. Mark was a bully. Mark was a prick. He was gratuitously nasty to people. He was terribly mercurial. He was verbally abusive to people. I knew that he had threatened people, that he had challenged people to fights.
“… I watched him harangue nearly every Assistant District Attorney in special investigations. I particularly remember him reducing Candace Vogel, who was still with the office, to tears. She came out of his office shaking and crying…
“I knew that he had challenged (chief of the Felony Trial Bureau) Brian Mahoney to a fistfight… over some perceived slight. I knew that he had harangued a prosecutor by the name of John Dudziak about not keeping up with his files when John’s father was in the last stages of dying of cancer.
“… Mark … was particularly brutal with women… I was in Carol Bridge‘s office one day… and I listened to Mark on the other end of the phone… screaming at her at the top of his lungs. She hung up. She was crying. She was shaking… He referred to women by the ‘C’ word, several women in the office, a woman outside of the office.
“And I didn’t want Mark supervising people. I didn’t think he was capable of supervising people especially by virtue of his temperament, the way he treated subordinates.”
Sacha’s Examination Before Trial
On April 13, 2010, Sacha was deposed by Sedita’s attorney Adam Perry of Hodgson Russ.
Perry spent hours asking Sacha about a multitude of topics and relationships.
Perry asked Sacha about a “profanity laden screaming session at John Cleary,” in the District Attorney’s office.
Sacha said, “I was not screaming…. I was having a discussion with John Cleary, who was accusing me of a crime…”
Perry: You were justified in using profanity in addressing the chief confidential investigator in this way?
P: All right. Sir, you have used in your lifetime the word cunt, C-U-N-T….
S: Not that I can remember…
P: (If) Karen Greenspan was referred to using the ‘C’ word by you, you would deny that? If… Molly Musarra was referred to using the ‘C’ word by you, you would deny that?
P: Judge Lisa Bloch Rodwin?
S: It’s absolutely incorrect.
P: Sir… have you ever been threatened by a police officer?
S: Mark Lauber... It was a little heated…
P: And he, unprovoked, says that he’s going to physically assault you?
P: (Police officer) Rene Gil, tell me about that one.
S: He wanted me to sign a slip… they get for their overtime… for something that he showed up late for and I refused to do it. And he threatened me. And I told him, ‘you know, take your gun off and we’ll go outside if you want to threaten me.’
P: What about telling people when they come in to talk to you about taking pleas and so forth… to ‘assume the position’ and when they ask for a definition of that, you say get on their knees?
S: That never happened…
P: Sir, you were involved in a physical altercation with Peter Allen Weinmann?
P: Never touched him?
S: No… With regard to Brian Mahoney, yeah.
P: …Carol Bridge, Sharon LoVallo or John Dudziak all left the office because of your actions?
S: That is absolutely false.
P: So it’s your testimony that nobody ever was forced out of the office because of your relationship to them?
S: Absolutely not.
P: And if they said that they left the office because of your treatment of them, they are lying?
S: I never ever had anything to do with anyone’s firing or demotion…
P: So did you say you wouldn’t discuss (evidence of Pigeon guilt) and then Mr. Marion screamed at you?
S: No. Mr. Marion… was literally screaming, red-faced and… called me a fraud… screaming at me. I actually said at one point, I will not — do not bully me. And John DeFranks called me ‘the king of the bullies.’ I actually looked at the investigators during both his screaming session and I said, ‘you guys heard that. You are witnesses to all this.’ And… DeFranks… said he doesn’t want to discuss it, end of story, we are over, meeting is over…”
P: Have you ever screamed at anybody while your face was red in the District Attorney’s Office, yes or no?
S: Not very many times…
P: Sir, why are you barred from appearing in (Judge) Penny Wolfgang’s courtroom?
S: I made a motion to recuse herself.
P: You made one motion and she barred you from the courtroom?
S: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. I was told that now I could not take any cases in front of Penny Wolfgang… In fact, her… deputies didn’t know that, because I went in when she was in special term and they brought me back and she started screaming, get him out of here.
P: She was screaming at you?
P: Seems like a lot of people scream at you. Why is that?
S: I don’t know why she did.
P: Are you familiar with an individual who is a police officer by the name of Alan Rozansky?
P: Isn’t it true, sir, you called him a liar?
S: That’s probably true.
P: And other names?
S: Oh. I think I said that he was (a) headline chaser…
P: Did you ever challenge Joe Agro to a fight?
S: I had a disagreement with Mr. Agro… and I became angry.
P: You screamed at him?
S: I would say I raised my voice.
P: What about when you grabbed Tom Finnerty by his lapel?
S: Tom Finnerty is a friend of mine.
P: So it’s okay for you to commit violent acts against your friends?
S: I never had a physical confrontation with anyone in the DA’s Office…
P: What about outside the DA’s Office while you were employed there?
S: (W)hile we were playing basketball, a disagreement rose up between myself and Roy Johnson. And Roy threw the basketball off my face intentionally. And I responded by punching Roy in the face. And it ended soon after that and we all had a good chuckle later on, like men do…
P: Now, sir, it’s true that you would talk about women’s sexual abilities in the office, correct?
S: Absolutely not.
P: Is it true you made Candy Vogel and Carol Bridge cry in the office and that you were proud of it?
S: Absolutely not true…
When questioned by Perry, Sacha admitted he called Sedita, “a Sicilian Goat Herder,” but only after he was fired.
At one point Perry turned the line of questioning to Sacha’s Dec. 30, 2008 memorandum which Sacha had told the News outlined his case against Pigeon and which Sedita ignored.
P: Tell me where in the (memorandum) you had pointed to a crime committed by Steve Pigeon… and called for his prosecution?
S: If your question is, is there a sentence in there that — the facts and the law are in there. Is there a sentence that says prosecute Steve Pigeon, no.
P: So the memorandum does not call for the prosecution of Steve Pigeon?
S: There is no specific sentence that says that.
P: Page twelve …. starts with ‘other possible charges’ … Now, can you show me in that paragraph where that reference is to other possible charges that could be made against Steve Pigeon?
S: It says other possible charges. But… the word Steve Pigeon is not in there…
P: (T)his paragraph… was designed to identify crimes that were prosecutable against Steve Pigeon that were still within the statute of limitations?
S: My testimony is that I included that in there, because there were these charges possible against Pigeon… and that’s why I included it. But the word Steve Pigeon is not in that paragraph.
P: (H)ow (would) the reader (know) when you are referring to these other possible charges, that you could only be referring to Steve Pigeon?
S: But an idiot — I’m sorry. But this memo speaks for itself… P: You said an idiot. An idiot would what?
S: Could figure it out.
P: Okay. Sir, … I want you to point to me in the text how the reader of this memorandum, whether they are an idiot or a rocket scientist, would know that in the … ‘other possible charges’ paragraph (that) Steve Pigeon… was included in that reference?
S: I can’t answer that question. I can’t answer.
P: Why not?
S: Because you asked the questions in such a convoluted manner, it’s impossible to answer them…
P: I’ll simplify it for you then, sir. Show me somewhere in this memorandum which would tell the reader, when you are saying other possible charges… the reader would know, ‘oh, he’s talking about Steve Pigeon’.
S: I left it to the reader to make their own conclusions… I believe that it called for it without the specific name, called for it by the facts and the law, but it did not have a sentence that said that.
Bridge Describes Sacha
Entered into evidence in the case was an affidavit of Carol Bridge, an Assistant DA from 1987 to 2001, who worked with and under Sacha for nearly 14 years. She said Sacha “created a hostile work environment with his workplace bullying tactics… During one incident, (Sacha) called me on my work telephone and launched a profanity-laced tirade against me concerning a work-related issue… screaming at me in a highly unprofessional manner.
“In another incident, (Sacha) used profanity, yelled at me, and put his finger in my face in a very threatening and humiliating manner.”
Bridge left the DA’s Office and obtained employment in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office.
Judge Skretny Decides
On October 21, 2012, Chief Judge William M. Skretny dismissed the Sacha v Sedita case finding that Sacha’s public criticism of Sedita’s relationship with Pigeon was not protected by the First Amendment or state whistle-blower law.
Quoting case law, Judge Skretney wrote, “a governmental employer has interests ‘in regulating the speech of its employees that differ significantly from those it possesses in connection with regulation of the speech of the citizenry in general.’ Pickering v. Bd. of Educ. of Twp. High Sch. Dist. …. “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S.
Since Judge Skretny found that Sacha spoke to the press in his capacity as an assistant district attorney, his statements are “not entitled to the protection of the First Amendment… To conclude otherwise would vitiate a district attorney’s ability to control public statements by assistant district attorneys regarding criminal investigations.”
Sacha appealed the decision.
A year later, a three judge panel: Chief Judge Robert A. Katzman, Judge Pierre N. Leval and Judge Rosemary S. Pooler of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Judge Skretny’s decision concluding that “Though the public’s interest in the subject of Sacha’s speech is significant, it is not significant enough to overcome the systemic disruption to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office that First Amendment protection for speech such as Sacha has the potential to cause.”
Sacha said the three judges were appointed by President Clinton and Pigeon has influence on Clinton therefore the judges ruled against him.