Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jockeying For Judgeships


Jennifer Thompson, a Conservative Republican who lost her
bid for Huntington Town  Board in 2015

How Long Island judges win races before they start


When longtime Conservative Marian Tinari ran for Huntington District Court last fall, she didn’t just have the backing of her party. She was also endorsed by the Republicans. And the Democrats. And the Independence and Reform parties.
All that harmony was orchestrated by the man who is no doubt her biggest supporter — her husband, Frank Tinari, the new leader of the Suffolk Conservative Party.

The multiparty support for Marian Tinari was so formidable that no one bothered to oppose her. In getting the cross-endorsements, she was not unusual in Suffolk County, where one in four judicial candidates has been backed by both Republicans and Democrats in the past 10 years, all victors in races that were won before they started.
But the sheer number of parties supporting her, despite their stark conflicts in judicial philosophy, as well as her husband’s involvement, make her election a vivid example not only of how completely party leaders dominate Long Island elections, but how that dominance reaches into the courts.
That troubles legal scholars who have long criticized the state’s judicial selection process. “It’s unseemly, it’s unbecoming; but it’s legal and business as usual for New York judgeships,” said James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied judicial selection.
In Nassau, where judicial races are more competitive, about 10 percent of the judicial candidates in the past 10 years were cross-endorsed by the major parties. But election records show that cross- endorsements have increased in both counties in recent years: From 1996 through 2005, just one judicial candidate in Nassau and 31 in Suffolk were cross-endorsed by the major parties. In the past 10 years, 25 candidates in Nassau and 63 in Suffolk were cross-endorsed by the major parties.
The reason for that is clear, leaders say. With cross-endorsements almost always guaranteeing election, candidates don’t have to spend money on political advertising and leaders don’t have to enlist party volunteers to get out the vote.
“It’s much easier,” said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican leader.
State law makes it illegal to give a party line in exchange for something of value, but trading party lines without an explicit quid pro quo is not, legal experts said.
Even within these bounds, though, the practice is one of the most questionable examples of the political horse trading that has become routine on Long Island. It can become as involved as draft-day maneuvering in the NFL, with deals extending over years and involving parties as disparate as the Conservatives and the organized-labor-oriented Working Families. In Suffolk, cross-endorsements have included top office holders, such as District Attorney Thomas Spota and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, but their effect on the judicial elections is particularly pronounced.
This year, the political parties have already agreed on cross-endorsements of all four of Suffolk’s higher court judgeships — one County and three Family — up in November.
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into the voting booth.”– Jennifer Thompson
While leaders of minor parties have defended cross-endorsements as just about their only way of electing qualified loyalists to the bench, some law professors and critics of New York’s unusual system of judicial selection say that comes at too high a price: It leaves the public with little real choice in selecting judges who make critical decisions affecting businesses, families and the potential for serious charges of criminal wrongdoing. Because judicial candidates are barred from expressing their political views or campaigning, endorsement by a single party can provide a strong indication to voters about where a candidate stands, while cross-endorsements offer a confusing picture.
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into the voting booth,” said Jennifer Thompson, a conservative Republican who lost her first bid for Huntington Town Board last year after cross-party negotiations involving Tinari’s judgeship and the town board seats.
“When they see somebody’s name on a party line, that represents something to them on a philosophical basis,” she said. “The average voter just doesn’t know.”
Just how judges get on the bench on Long Island is a question federal investigators have posed to Frank Tinari’s predecessor, Edward Walsh, who was convicted March 31 on federal charges of wage theft and wire fraud. Although Walsh was prosecuted for doing political work — and gambling and golfing — while he was supposed to be doing his job as a deputy county sheriff, his lawyers maintain that the real reason federal attorneys pursued a case against him was in part his influence over the selection of judges.
As leader of the largest county Conservative Party in the state, Walsh’s backing could make the critical difference in a judicial election, bringing in up to 30 percent of the vote. Walsh’s lawyer, William Wexler, said in an interview that he had no information to give prosecutors.
Frank Tinari succeeded Walsh as leader of the Suffolk Conservative Party, which bars felons from the office. An attorney who has been involved with the party for 30 years, Tinari makes no apologies for using his political influence to help his wife get a judgeship.

“Marian has been an active Conservative since 1988 and has worked for the party,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think she should be penalized if she’s qualified to be a judge by the mere fact that she’s married to me.”
Before becoming a judge, Marian Tinari worked as a court attorney referee, law clerk and an assistant district attorney. The Suffolk Bar Association found her qualified.
Asked about her cross-endorsements, Marian Tinari released a statement through a court spokeswoman: “I was very humbled and appreciative when all political parties supported my candidacy for Suffolk County District Court Judge.”


The Toll
New York is one of just seven states that allow fusion voting, which permits candidates to run on multiple party lines. The practice is a reform that was introduced decades ago to give minor parties more of a voice and to break the stranglehold of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall machine. But over time, leaders of both minor and major parties have traded party lines with little regard for political philosophy, and the major parties have occasionally come together to block the influence of smaller parties.
“It would be like a card game.”– John Cochrane
“It would be like a card game,” said former Suffolk Republican leader John Cochrane.
When Nassau District Court Judge Anna Anzalone ran for state Supreme Court in 2014, the Nassau County Bar Association failed to find her qualified — a rare determination for a sitting judge. Nonetheless, both the Nassau Republicans and Democrats endorsed her.
Although she is a Republican, in endorsing her GOP leader Joseph Mondello violated his long-standing agreement not to back candidates the bar association failed to approve. At the time, Republican officials called the association’s decision partisan. Mondello said that while he would have liked bar association approval, “if . . . games are going to be played, you have to adjust your sails.”

John McEntee, who was then bar association president, defended the screening committee’s rating. In a letter to Newsday at the time, he pointed out that the committee was bipartisan and wrote that it found “by an overwhelming margin” that Anzalone “lacked the qualifications and experience necessary” for Supreme Court. Under association rules, the committee’s specific findings are kept confidential.
After her election, she asked that the Suffolk Bar Association review her qualifications because she was seeking to extend her term beyond the mandatory retirement age of 70. In May 2015, that association found her qualified.
Anzalone did not respond to calls for comment.
Despite the debate over her qualifications, Anzalone had something that would appeal to any party leader: the support of the New York State Laborers Political Action Committee, which was controlled by her husband, George Truicko. The PAC, which has contributed to the Nassau GOP consistently over the years, gave handsomely to the party in 2014, with $24,050 coming before her nomination and $12,500 right after her election.
“… if you come to me and say you want to run for an office, I would say to you, can you raise a certain amount of money?”– Jay Jacobs
The effect of the cross-endorsement was powerful. Anzalone was one of six Supreme Court candidates cross-endorsed by the major parties. All six were elected to the bench. Three others, including two who ran on a single party line, were shut out.
The ability to raise money for a party, as Anzalone’s husband had done, is an important consideration when selecting judicial candidates, party leaders say.

“There is an expectation in every single office if you come to me and say you want to run for an office, I would say to you, can you raise a certain amount of money?” said Nassau Democratic leader Jay Jacobs.
In 2014, every single Nassau Democratic candidate for higher court — Supreme, County and Family — generated at least $50,000 in donations for the party’s county committee. And four District Court candidates each raised at least $17,500 for the county party, according to a Newsday review of hundreds of campaign filings.
Under state judicial ethics rules, contributions made by judicial candidates must be used for specific campaign expenses. Contributions made in a lump sum, unconnected to expenses, particularly before a candidate is nominated, are prohibited to prevent the appearance of buying a nomination. A judge violating the rules could be subject to discipline.
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that dream their judicial reality.”– James Sample
Jacobs said that the contributions went primarily to a coordinated judicial campaign, which he said was legal. “We’re straight up about it,” he said. “Once those judges reach the bench, it’s hands-off from the Democratic Party.
Although records don’t show the same level of contributions in 2015, Jacobs said he might solicit them this year if there are contested judicial races.
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that dream their judicial reality,” Hofstra’s Sample said.
“And the problem with that is that legal acumen has almost nothing to do with who becomes a judge.”
Former Republican leader Cochrane agreed. “It is not because they are particularly brilliant or have credentials,” he said, making the point that success in law school or the courts is far from a primary consideration. “You don’t go to school, you don’t earn marks; you earn it through the political process.”


The Tinari Deal
The political discussions that laid the groundwork for Marian Tinari’s seat on the 3rd District Court, which covers cases in the Town of Huntington, provide a window into the making of a judge. It all began in January 2014, with various accounts portraying negotiations involving five party leaders, four judgeships, two town board seats, a county executive and a vote by the county legislature.
Making the extent of the maneuverings all the more improbable was that, as much as the judgeship may have meant to Tinari, it meant relatively little to the political leaders, other than her husband. A District Court judgeship comes with a $156,200 salary and a six-year term and can be a steppingstone to higher courts. But it has no patronage jobs and little court work to hand out. It is a lower court that primarily handles misdemeanors and lesser offenses, as well as landlord-tenant disputes.
“You don’t want to put an idiot in just because they’re a lawyer,” said Huntington Democratic leader Mary Collins, who rued the fact that when someone becomes a judge, the party loses a valuable worker. “Once a person’s on the bench, they’re lost because they’re precluded from doing anything for the party.”
Nonetheless, a judgeship can be a way to reward a loyal party volunteer or can be a useful chit in cross-party deal making.
Against this background, in early 2014, Frank Tinari, who is also the Huntington Conservative leader, approached Tepe, the town Republican leader. She said he proposed a full slate of District Court cross-endorsements that included the incumbents, Republican Steve Hackeling and Conservative Paul Hensley, as well as Democrat James Matthews for the seat that the Conservative John Andrew Kay was retiring from. Matthews is Tinari’s former law partner.
Journey to becoming a judge

Marian Tinari was not part of that package, but rumors had begun to circulate that another District Court judgeship would open up, something that would emerge in a telling way months down the line.
Frank Tinari’s proposition ran into problems because Tepe assumed a negotiating position that other political leaders take: Once a judgeship is held by a person from a particular party, it stays with that party.
Tepe said she reminded Tinari of an earlier deal they made: She had agreed to back Kay in 2010, as long as the seat returned to the Republicans once he retired. Tepe said she wanted that judgeship back.

Tinari denied that he had agreed to that, she said. Their talks broke down.
Tinari, whose party seldom wins a political race on its own but can draw thousands of votes to a judicial candidate, turned to Collins, the town Democratic leader, despite their parties’ differences in philosophy. They quickly cut an unusual deal: Conservatives would back two Democrats for District Court in exchange for Democrats backing one Conservative in 2014 and another Conservative in 2015, Collins said.
It was agile maneuvering — in fact, too agile for some Conservatives. The two Democrats the Conservatives agreed to back, Matthews and Patricia Grant Flynn, also accepted the line of the left-leaning Working Families Party, something staunchly opposed by the state Conservative Party leadership.
“I do have a problem with the Conservative Party participating in cross-endorsements with the Working Families Party,” state Conservative chairman Michael Long said in an interview. “They represent a philosophy that is alien to everything the Conservative Party believes.”
Tinari said the Democrats got the Working Families line after the Conservative endorsement.
For Matthews and Flynn, the Conservative line proved to be a key cross-endorsement in the November election. It provided the margin of victory for Matthews and significantly boosted Flynn.
Until now, Marian Tinari’s name had not surfaced officially in connection with a judgeship, but shortly after the election the long-rumored judicial retirement finally emerged. District Court Judge G. Ann Spelman announced she was leaving the bench.

That’s when the commitment by the Democrats to endorse an unnamed candidate of the Conservative Party’s choosing crystallized into their endorsement of Marian Tinari.
Collins said that under the deal she struck with Tinari that won Conservative endorsement for Democrats Matthews and Flynn, the Democrats were committed to endorsing a Conservative for the next District Court opening. The deal was made easier, she said, because no Democratic lawyers were interested in the judgeship. Marian Tinari was, and she became the candidate.
Frank Tinari said Spelman’s retirement came without warning but that he was happy to propose his wife as her replacement. “Did I help to try and put the nomination together? Yes, as soon as we found out that it became available by Gigi Spelman stepping down,” he said.
Both Tepe and Collins, however, said there had been rumors of Spelman’s retirement for months. Spelman and her husband, Randolph, who served on the town Conservative executive committee with Tinari, did not return calls for comment.
Because Spelman retired before her term was completed, officials had to appoint someone to take her seat on the bench until an election for a full term took place the following November. Collins gave Suffolk Democratic leader Richard Schaffer just one name for that seat: not that of a Democrat, but Marian Tinari.
Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone forwarded her name to the county legislature, which in March 2015 unanimously approved her.
She would still have to stand for election, but the appointment gave her the advantage of incumbency.
In politics, though, a simple advantage is not always enough. There was one more deal waiting to be made.


Final Stage
In 2015, judgeships were far removed from the concern of Huntington Democrats, who were focused on retaining control of the five-person town board. They held a 4-1 edge. Two seats were up, and four candidates were running for them.
While every party has an executive committee, longtime observers of Long Island politics have noted how for decades strong leaders have influenced party positions and endorsements.
Frank Petrone, the Democratic Huntington supervisor, asked Frank Tinari to back both Democratic candidates. Tepe, who hoped to make Republican inroads, wanted him to endorse a Republican and a friendly incumbent, who is a member of the Independence Party.

Tinari, in effect split the difference.
The reason for that, according to Petrone, was obvious: “I think he needed to keep everyone happy.”
Tinari wanted both the Republicans and Democrats to back his wife in her run for District Court, Petrone said, and while the Democrats had supported her appointment there was no guarantee they would endorse her electoral bid.
“An appointment is one thing; to run for a seat is another,” Petrone explained.
Tepe recalled, “Tinari said to me, ‘The Conservatives are willing to endorse one person. Choose who you want.’”
Tinari said he did not recall telling her she could pick whom she wanted, something that would have put a political card on the table without allowing the Conservative executive committee to evaluate candidates on their merits.
Whatever the circumstances, Tepe faced a tough decision. Incumbent Gene Cook had been a friend to Republicans on the board and was popular with voters, even though he was a member of the Independence Party. Jennifer Thompson, who serves on the Northport School Board, was a newcomer to Huntington town politics, but Tepe liked her a lot.
But when Thompson appeared before a Conservative screening committee, she said she got a cool reception. Tinari asked most of the questions and took an adversarial approach, she remembered, recalling that she “got the distinct impression that I was not welcome.”
Tinari said the Conservative executive committee did not find her qualified. “We didn’t think that she was a good candidate,” he said.
In the end, Tepe went with Cook, the incumbent. The Republicans also endorsed Marian Tinari for the judgeship. Tepe had known and liked Marian Tinari for years and came from the same side of the political spectrum. “There basically was no reason for us not to be supportive at this point,” Tepe said.
In what was barely a cherry on the cake, Tinari also received the endorsements of two much smaller parties, the Reform and Independence.

Huntington Independence Party leader Kenneth Bayne said there was nothing complicated about why his party endorsed Marian Tinari. He, like a spokesman for the Reform Party, said she was the only one who asked for the endorsement and that she was qualified.
Spokesmen for the Independence and Reform Parties said that Tinari was the only candidate who sought their backing for District Court and they found her qualified.
That would seem to be the end of a long political story, but it wasn’t. One of the charms of cross-endorsements is that withholding one can have as much impact as bestowing one, something Thompson — who didn’t get the Conservative Party nod — found out the hard way.
Sometime around July, Tepe learned that the Conservatives were running their own candidate for the other Town Board seat, a move that could only hurt Thompson by siphoning votes from her. And that’s exactly what happened.
The Conservatives’ Town Board candidate, Michael Helfer, an attorney who had no listed campaign committee, got 2,827 votes — the critical margin of difference. Her opponent, Democratic incumbent Susan Berland, beat Thompson by just 1,212 votes.
“Had I had the Conservative line,” Thompson said, “I would have won my race.”
Tinari, running on five party lines with no opposition, swept to easy victory and a full six-year term with 24,468 votes. Thanks to cross-endorsements, the longtime Conservative drew the plurality of them — 11,090 — on the line of her party’s longtime antagonist: the Democratic Party.
 COMMENT
Mitchell Wilensky
This is just an outrageous hit piece by Newsday. Judge Marian Tinari is an outstanding and super-qualified jurist. She has been a devoted and tireless public servant for decades who as a former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney was the head of the Bias Crimes Unit. When she was the Principal Law Clerk in the Suffolk County Surrogate's Court, she was a passionate advocate for the rights of widows and orphans. This is the type of person the public deserves as a judge. Did Newsday have a lengthy investigation into how President Bill Clinton got Hillary her Democratic nomination for the US Senate in 2000 to run against Long Island's own Rick Lazio? Absolutely NOT!!! Once again the liberal/progressive bias of Newsday rears its ugly head in an attempt to destroy an individual such as Judge Tinari who just happens to be a conservative. M.E. Wilensky


Monday, July 4, 2016

Pals Governor Andrew Cuomo and G. Steven Pigeon Are In For a Rough Summer

Cuomo closely tied to operative indicted for bribery: report
July 4, 2016 | 3:07am

Andrew Cuomo and G. Steven Pigeon
Gov. Cuomo has been far closer for far longer to now-indicted Buffalo-area Democratic power broker Steve Pigeon than the governor himself admits — or that many in his administration realize — sources tell The Post.
Cuomo was so close to Pigeon — charged last week with nine felonies in connection with the alleged bribing of a state Supreme Court justice — that he gave him a key role in his 2014 re-election campaign despite objections from more important political aides like Joseph Percoco and Larry Schwartz, who considered him “untrustworthy and a little sleazy,’’ a source close to the campaign told The Post.
Cuomo directed Percoco, the focus of an ongoing probe by corruption-fighting US Attorney Preet Bharara, and Schwartz, Cuomo’s former chief of staff, and a handful of other trusted aides to allow Pigeon to attend key strategy meetings at the campaign headquarters from which virtually all other political operatives were excluded, said the campaign source.
“They objected, but the governor forced Pigeon on them,’’ according to the source. “At first Pigeon started to just show up at campaign strategy meetings, even though no one knew who had invited him to come.
“But it turned out that it was the governor who invited him to be there because the governor had come to believe that Pigeon was some kind of a political genius,’’ said the source.
“No one even knew when the governor was talking to Pigeon or how often but once in a while the governor himself would just pop out with a conversation he had had with Pigeon, saying how he felt Pigeon had it right on some campaign issue, letting others know that he felt Pigeon was smarter than they were,’’ the source said.
Cuomo sought re-election obsessed with racking up a big vote in Buffalo and Erie County, Pigeon’s bailiwick, which he had lost four years earlier to Republican Carl Paladino, the source said.
Pigeon, the longtime Erie County Democratic chairman, “was the guy who Andrew was taking counsel from as to how to win in Buffalo this time around, but he was also taking his counsel on broader statewide issues,’’ the source said.
A second source said Cuomo was so close to Pigeon that in 2010, Gov. David Paterson refused to allow then-Attorney General Cuomo to name a special prosecutor to investigate election-related corruption charges being made against Pigeon — because he felt Cuomo “couldn’t be trusted to authorize a fair probe.’’
“Everyone knew at that time how close Cuomo was to Pigeon,’’ said the source.
A further claim of Cuomo/Pigeon closeness during Paterson’s tenure came from a senior staff member at the Legislature during the “coup’’ in which Pigeon played a key role in helping temporarily switch Senate control from the Democrats to the Republicans.
“Pigeon was the key contact at the time between Cuomo and [coup leader state Sen.] Pedro Espada, with Cuomo, through Pigeon, seeming to encourage what was going on,’’ said the former legislative staffer.
Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi insisted it was “a lie’’ to call Pigeon “an important policy adviser or a close ally.”
“The governor hasn’t spoken to him in years and he was last relevant 15 years ago,’’ when Pigeon backed Cuomo for governor, Azzopardi said.
He also said Cuomo, whose office has been served with a subpoena by Bharara as part of the corruption probe of Percoco, one of the governor’s oldest and closest friends, and lobbyist/Cuomo-associate Todd Howe, “has repeatedly said we have zero tolerance for corruption and if someone did something wrong they deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.’’

Steven Pigeon, Caught and Charged With Bribery and Extortion

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Steven Pigeon, Caught and Charged With Bribery and Extortion


Steven Pigeon walks in a hallway at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. on June 10, 2009. The Democratic political operative from Buffalo has been charged as part of a corruption probe that has led to the resignation of a judge. Pigeon was charged Thursday morning, June 30, 2016, with bribery, rewarding official misconduct and grand larceny. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

Arrest of a top Democratic operative becomes another showcase of Albany corruption

LINK
ALBANY, N.Y. >> New York’s cyclone of corruption touched down once again this week, with the arrest of a prominent Democratic operative on bribery and extortion charges and a guilty plea by a State Supreme Court justice in Buffalo.
But this wasn’t just any Democratic operative — it was Steven Pigeon, one of the plotters of the 2009 Senate coup that paralyzed state government for weeks and cost as much as $150 million in lost tax revenue as legislation lapsed. The coup led by Republicans and rogue Democrats fizzled out, but still stands as a potent example of New York’s penchant for political dysfunction.
This week, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Pigeon bribed State Supreme Court Justice John Michalek to secretly influence the outcome of lawsuits pending before his court. Michalek pleaded guilty to two felonies and resigned his judgeship.
“As we allege in today’s indictment, 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,” Schneiderman said in announcing the arrest and guilty pleas Thursday. “I will not stand for this kind of brazen contempt for the rule of law and the interests of everyday New Yorkers. Anyone who breaches the public trust will be held accountable by my office. Our investigation is ongoing.”
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Pigeon has a long history in New York politics, including helping to organize the coup and serving as a senior legislative aide to the infamous former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada (D-Bronx), who is now in prison on other corruption charges. Pigeon’s resume includes bucking party leaders to endorse Andrew Cuomo’s ill-fated campaign for governor in 2002, and serving as Rochester billionaire and three-time governor candidate Tom Golisano’s senior political advisor.
He was even present at the creation of Eliot Spitzer’s political career, helping him as Erie County Democratic chairman win the nomination for attorney general in 1998, 10 years before he resigned as governor after being caught hiring prostitutes.
“As far as I’m concerned, thank God for Eliot Spitzer,” Pigeon told the Daily News in 1998.
But Pigeon’s place in state political history rests most securely with the 2009 coup, one of the biggest upheavals in the history of the Legislature.
In April 2009, Pigeon was one of just four plotters who met in a now defunct bar in Albany called Red Square to hammer out the final details of the coup, according to a detailed account of the meticulous planning of the coup that was published in the Albany Times Union in June 2009. The others at the meeting were Senators Tom Libous, Dean Skelos and George Maziarz. Libous and Skelos were subsequently convicted, and Maziarz quit the Legislature while under federal investigation 18 months ago.
According to the paper, the coup was planned by Maziarz, the GOP boss of Niagara County, and Pigeon.
Besides Espada, the other rogue Democrat enlisted by the plotter was Senator Hiram Monserrate, who also ended up in prison.
“We wouldn’t have even tried to do it with a strong governor,” Pigeon told the T-U in 2009, referring to Gov. David Paterson, thrust into the job by Spitzer’s sex scandal. “We wouldn’t even had considered it.”
Fast forward to 2016 and Pigeon’s skill at political string-pulling may turn out to be his fatal undoing.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who brought the charges, said that Pigeon gave gifts to the judge and helped with requests for patronage jobs and a promotion. In exchange, Pigeon sought to influence the outcome of legal cases pending before the judge that involved his associates and clients.
Schneiderman accused Pigeon of giving Michalek tickets to Buffalo Sabres hockey games, a fundraiser ticket worth $1,000, and promises to help Michalek be promoted to the Appellate Division of the New York. “As alleged in the complaint, Michalek and Pigeon engaged in ex parte communication, during which time Michalek provided Pigeon confidential insight, and the opportunity to provide confidential input, into matters before the court. Those matters included active litigation in which Pigeon had an interest.”
The judge was also accused of asking Pigeon for help in finding patronage work for two relatives. Also, Pigeon is helped an associate win a lucrative court appointment.
If convicted, Pigeon faces up to 15 years in prison. Michalek, who was first elected as judge in 1995, could face up to 7 years behind bars.
The Buffalo News described Michalek as a highly respected judge with no blemish on his record.
The paper also reported that his late older brother, James, was a scam artist and disbarred lawyer who went to prison in 1993 for swindling millions from senior citizens and banks. He was imprisoned after leading the FBI on a nationwide manhunt for three months.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NYPD Chiefs Michael J. Harrington, James M. Grant, and David Villanueva Arrested on Federal Corruption Charges

Deputy Chief Michael Harrington, left, and Deputy Inspector James Grant

Here's List of Bribes 4 Arrested NYPD Officials Are Accused of Taking

LINK
By Peter Duffy | June 20, 2016 6:43pm
James Grant

NEW YORK CITY — Lavish trips, private jets, gifts and a prostitute. 
Court documents show the extensive list of goods and services received by four NYPD officials who were arrested Monday and charged with accepting bribes in exchange for police escorts, access and gun licenses.
Here's a breakdown of the ill-gotten gains listed in court documents:
Deputy Inspector James Grant
Las Vegas Trip, February 2013
• Grant received round-trip travel to Las Vegas on a private jet, a value of $59,000. 
• One of the passengers on the jet was a prostitute who then stayed in Grant's room and who spent the weekend in Las Vegas with Grant and his friends who "took advantages of her services during the trip," according to the indictment. 
• Grant's rooms and meals were comped during the trip.
Rome Trip, August 2013
• Grant and his family enjoyed a two-night stay in two hotel rooms in Rome, a value of $1,066. 
Other Financial Benefits
• Grant had the railings replaced outside of his Staten Island home, a value of approximately $6,000. 
• The windows were replaced in Grant's home, which cost approximately $6,000. 
• Grant's watch was upgraded, a value of approximately $3,000. 
• On Christmas Day in 2013, Grant received a video game system for his children and a piece of jewelry for his wife, a value of approximately $1,000. 
Deputy Chief Michael Harrington
Chicago Trip, 2014
• Harrington and family members stayed in a downtown Chicago hotel with three rooms for four nights and one room for two nights, a cost of approximately $6,500. 
Other Financial Benefits
• Between May 2013 and November 2014, Harrington was taken to dinner at least once or twice a week, typically at pricey Manhattan restaurants. The bill generally ran between $400 and $500. 
• Harrington received tickets to numerous sporting events, including two $400 tickets to the Brooklyn Nets in January 2014 and two $700 tickets for the New York Rangers in May 2014.
• On Christmas Day in 2013, Harrington received a video game system for his kids.
• For a period of 15 months, Harrington's security company was hired to work at a Manhattan school, receiving $5,000 per month for its services.
Sgt. David Villanueva
Villanueva received:
• Thousands of dollars in bribes.
• Bottles of liquor.
• Limousine rides.
• A limousine tour of wineries.
Officer Richard Ochetal
• Ochetal received cash and benefits.


3 New York Police Commanders Are Arrested on Corruption Charges

LINK

Three New York Police Department commanders, including a deputy chief, were arrested early Monday, along with a Brooklyn businessman, on federal corruption charges stemming from one of several continuing investigations into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The arrests, of a deputy chief, a deputy inspector and a sergeant, were one of the most significant roundups of police supervisors in the recent history of the department. In striking the top ranks, the case is a particular blow to the storied — and sometimes sullied — reputation of the nation’s largest municipal police force.
The charges detail lavish gifts the two senior police officials are accused of receiving: complimentary Super Bowl tickets, expensive meals and free overseas trips, including at least one taken in the company of a prostitute, the people said. The sergeant was charged in a scheme that involved aiding applicants for firearms licenses.
The gifts were largely paid for by two businessmen, both of whom have been generous supporters of the mayor. Jeremiah Reichberg, 42, of Borough Park, Brooklyn, was charged along with the officers, the people said. Jona S. Rechnitz, 33, of the Upper West Side, had been a target of the fund-raising investigation until recent weeks, when he pleaded guilty to corruption charges and began cooperating with the federal authorities, the people said.
The arrests in the early morning hours by agents with the F.B.I. and investigators from the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau were followed by the execution of search warrants, the people said. The charges included bribery, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy, and they were scheduled to be announced at a news conference later on Monday.
Arrested were Deputy Chief Michael J. Harrington, 50; Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, 43; and Sgt. David Villanueva, 42. They were expected to appear in United States District Court in Manhattan on Monday afternoon. Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
While the charges being leveled against the police officials were uncovered during the fund-raising investigation focused on Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, and his inner circle, there has been no suggestion that the mayor himself was involved in the conduct described in the charging documents in the case, which are expected to be unsealed Monday morning. The fund-raising investigation and several other inquiries by federal prosecutors, the F.B.I. and other agencies focused on the mayor’s donors and fund-raising were continuing. The scope of the broader fund-raising inquiries remains unclear.
Police Commissioner William J. Bratton has said the department believes investigators have identified all of the police officials involved in the alleged misconduct, though it is unknown whether the charges on Monday will conclude that line of inquiry by federal prosecutors, F.B.I. agents and Internal Affairs investigators.
The particular fund-raising investigation that led to these arrests has been going on for well over a year, and in recent months, details of some of the accusations against the police officials who have been charged — and others — have been widely reported in news accounts. Nearly a dozen mostly senior police officials have been disciplined by the Police Department in some way as a result of the inquiry — including some of those charged on Monday. Those disciplined include five deputy chiefs and a deputy inspector; four of the chiefs and the deputy inspector have put in for retirement.
Mr. Rechnitz’s cooperation with federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents has already helped prosecutors bring corruption charges in another case linked to the same fund-raising investigation, people briefed on the matter have said. In that case, a criminal complaint unsealed on June 8 charged Norman Seabrook, the powerful head of the union that represents city correction officers, and Murray Huberfeld, a hedge fund financier, with honest services fraud and conspiracy.
That complaint said Mr. Rechnitz had pleaded guilty to committing honest services fraud in connection with the scheme in which Mr. Seabrook and Mr. Huberfeld were charged, “among other things,” suggesting he was involved in additional criminal conduct. While the document does not identify Mr. Rechnitz by name, referring to him only as CW-1, or Cooperating Witness 1, several people with knowledge of the matter said CW-1 was Mr. Rechnitz. At a news conference announcing the arrests of Mr. Seabrook and Mr. Huberfeld, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office filed the complaint, would not answer questions about the identity of CW-1 or the degree to which the witness could be helpful in other cases.
But Mr. Bharara indicated that the witness was “assisting other investigations.”
The criminal complaint in the earlier case details two trips that Mr. Rechnitz, Mr. Seabrook and another businessman — also a supporter of the mayor — took to the Dominican Republic. On the first one, in November 2013, they were accompanied by an unnamed officer from the Police Department. On the second one, in December 2014, the four men were accompanied by a fifth unnamed person. Mr. Rechnitz paid for the airfare for both trips.
Then, in March 2014, Mr. Seabrook, Mr. Rechnitz, the police officer and the other businessman — Mr. Reichberg, who was identified in the criminal complaint as Co-Conspirator 1 or CC-1 — traveled to Israel, with Mr. Rechnitz paying the airfare, according to the complaint. In July of that year, he paid for the same group to travel to Las Vegas and then Burbank, Calif., the complaint said.