By Tony Farina
Where to start with Steve Pigeon?
That’s the question I asked myself when publisher Frank Parlato of the Niagara Falls Reporter asked me to do an update on the former Erie County Democratic Party chairman who is now preparing for a December trial that could be his biggest challenge yet in a life filled with many.
Do I start at the beginning when the young Steve Pigeon began to hone his political skills by working with his high school friends to win campaigns for school office and other projects he was supporting?
It was the beginning of a long road for the driven young man who eventually rose to the top of the political chain and became Erie County Democratic chairman at the age of 36 back in 1996, leading the party through six highly controversial years before his political enemies drove him out in 2002.
But the former county legislator had made his mark as chairman as a highly controversial political figure who even his enemies conceded was a boy wonder in the political world, winning races he had no chance to win, raising campaign money at the drop of a hat, and making friends and enemies as he did along the way. You see, Steve Pigeon loved to swim upstream in the political world and in 1984 he did it with Sen. Gary Hart, managing Hart’s upstate New York presidential primary campaign leading to a clash with then Erie County Democratic Party leader Joe Crangle who was supporting Walter Mondale. The rivalry with Crangle never ended.
Along the way, Pigeon made friends with the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, and billionaire Tom Golisano who with Pigeon’s help saved the Buffalo Sabres from leaving town. I should also include Sen. Charles Schumer on that list, a close Pigeon friend and associate for many years.
But the days of the political world are now behind the boy wonder who at the age of 63 is fresh off serving several months in jail on state and federal charges related to sending out a judge’s son’s resumes who was seeking work and maneuvering an illegal campaign donation for his friend Cuomo. Now Pigeon, who is free on bail, is focusing on Dec. 4 when his trial will begin in State Supreme Court in Judge William Boller’s courtroom on charges he raped and sexually molested a girl under the age of 11 who “suddenly” remembered the alleged attack in 2021, several years after it allegedly occurred in 2016. The defense team will likely, according to legal sources, probe deeply into her revived memory and who may have helped her “remember.”
His defense team concedes there is great anxiety by Pigeon as he prepares for the trial to face charges that he denies completely but his lawyer from Rochester, James Nobles, declines to answer any questions about the defense strategy other than to say Pigeon is not guilty.
It is a complicated case with family members involved (I’m not going there), and it could come down to Pigeon’s word against that of his accuser who is expected to take the stand and be aggressively tested on her memory of the alleged attack in a 2008 Ford Explorer SUV that she says occurred in the vehicle which some experts we spoke to say is very difficult to imagine and doubt her story.
The accuser has a history of mental stress and depression and according to legal sources who decline to speak on the record, her condition will likely surface in the courtroom in this life and death struggle for Steve Pigeon who could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Many people I have spoken to say they don’t believe Pigeon is capable of such a crime but the district attorney moved forward on the child’s word and now it comes down to a courtroom battle. Some say it is possible Pigeon could be a witness in his own defense. In other words, a courtroom face off with his teenage accuser, his word against hers. That remains to be seen but some see it as possible.
The political boy wonder meanwhile sits and contemplates, according to friends, still following politics every day of his life. His love of politics has never wavered and he follows it every day, locally and nationally, as he awaits the December trial. That’s who Steve Pigeon is, a political strategist at every level.
Pigeon still has many friends who support him and offer him encouragement to stay strong and keep fighting as he await the trial. Steve Pigeon has at least one more big battle in his life, and it will begin on Dec. 4.
There has been a lot written about Steve Pigeon in recent times, most of it uncomplimentary, feeding an image that he is public enemy number one. Some would call it a feeding frenzy but I call it follow-the-leader journalism.
Pigeon was a political bad boy but also a major achiever who accomplished much in his life and until now has never been accused of any forced attacks on anybody. Those who know him best will tell you an attack on a child is not part of who he is.