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Mark Sacha on District Attorney’s Failure to Prosecute Steve Pigeon

Filed under: Erie County, Local Politics

Below is Assistant Erie County District Attorney Mark Sacha’s complete statement accusing his boss, Frank Sedita, of refusing to prosecute Steve Pigeon for election law violations, as detailed by Mike Beebe and Bob McCarthy in this Buffalo News article:

My name is Mark Sacha and I am an Assistant Erie County District Attorney.  I have served in that capacity for over 22 years.  I was hired by the Honorable Richard Arcara in 1987.  I was promoted to supervisory positions by the Honorable Kevin Dillon and District Attorney Frank Clark.  Until January 2, 2009, I held the position of Deputy District Attorney with signing authority on behalf of District Attorney Clark.  I have been in charge of most of the specialized units of the District Attorney’s Office and in that time supervised over 100 Assistant District Attorneys.  I have been the chief public corruption prosecutor in Erie County over the past ten years.

As such I am thoroughly familiar with the New York State Election Law and the importance of Election Law prosecution.  I was the lead prosecutor in the investigation of the Paul Clark campaign for Erie County Executive.  It is in that capacity that I feel legally, morally and ethically obligated to speak out about matters that effect the public’s right to free and fair elections.  These matters involve conflicts of interest, abuse of discretion, and abuse of power.  These matters involve the District Attorney’s sworn responsibility to enforce the law and do justice in the public interest.  These matters include instances where the power of the District Attorney has been used improperly to protect political interests and to retaliate against me for pursuing an ongoing investigation.

In the summer of 2008, I along with other members of the Erie County District Attorney’s office and the FBI discovered evidence that certain monetary transactions and assumed name accounts had been used by agents of the Paul Clark campaign to conceal the identity of certain donors to the campaign.  On August 25, 2008 the Buffalo News ran a story quoting then District Attorney Frank Clark to the effect that the investigation had expanded to focus on “efforts to disguise the identity of donors”.  The article also attributed to DA Clark the information that Timothy Clark (brother of candidate Paul Clark) and Roger Peck, Jr.  were “under scrutiny”.  Roger Peck later took a misdemeanor plea in the matter on December 2, 2008.  At that time, the Buffalo News cited an unnamed source for the inaccurate proposition that Timothy Clark had not been charged because “evidence was insufficient to result in charges”.  No mention was made of other persons who may have been involved in the efforts to conceal the source of donations.

Election Law §14-120 (1) reads as follows:

§14-120.  Campaign contribution to be under true name of contributor

  1. No person shall in any name except his own, directly or indirectly, make a payment or a promise of payment to a candidate or political committee or to any officer or member thereof, or to any person acting under its authority or in its behalf or on behalf of any candidate, nor shall any such committee or any such person or candidate knowingly receive a payment or promise of payment, or enter or cause the same to be entered in the accounts or records of such committee, in any name other than that of the person or persons by whom it is made.

During this time an election campaign was taking place for Erie County District Attorney.  The eventual winner of that three way contest was the present District Attorney Frank Sedita III.  On December 30, 2008 I personally handed to District Attorney Sedita a memorandum explaining the status of the Paul Clark investigation and identifying areas of the investigation that had not been completed.  To this day District Attorney Sedita has never made any effort to discuss the memo or the investigation with me at any time.  Several days later on January 2, 2009 on the first day of his administration I was called into District Attorney Sedita’s office, demoted and reassigned to arson prosecution.  DA Sedita refused to explain the reason I was being demoted and angrily informed me that I could resign if I so wished.

Let me make clear that I supported Frank Sedita III in the election campaign.  In fact he came to my office within one half hour of prior District Attorney Frank Clark’s announcement that he was not going to run for reelection.  I pledged my support and DA Sedita physically embraced me.  We worked together for twenty years and never once had a serious disagreement.  I admired his work ethic and jokingly referred to him as the best “political hack” we ever hired.  I did not know at that time how he had obtained his political endorsements nor did I know for sure who was involved in that process.  I did know that he had a close relationship with one of the people who was involved in the Paul Clark campaign and was a subject of the Clark memo.  I never advised Frank Sedita at that time about the status of our investigation but I am sure that others did.  I am sure this inadvertently caused a good degree of anxiety regarding the election.  However I and others investigating this campaign did our job the right way.  We followed the evidence without bias and I have no regrets.

What I do regret is that a person who I considered a friend and colleague chose to ignore an obvious conflict of interest and abused his discretion.  What I do regret is that DA Sedita took an oath one day and on the very next day abused the power of his office to cause harm to my family and myself to help a political friend.  I do regret that the only explanation given for his actions appeared in a Buffalo News article published on January 15, 2009 where Mr. Sedita stated “I’ve wiped out the entire middle level of administration”.  DA Sedita explained “I’m getting rid of bean counters and paper pushers”.  I was never a bean counter.  I was never a paper pusher, although I did push my memo into his hands on December 30, 2008.

That is why I must speak out.  Events leading up to my demotion as well as information I have obtained since that time make clear that I was demoted for reasons related to my work on the Paul Clark investigation and the District Attorney’s campaign for office.  It is now clear that no further action has been taken regarding the unfinished matters in my memo.  It is now clear that the District Attorney has “given a pass” to a political supporter and friend.  It is clear that person who received the pass has been involved in similar conduct as to what was discussed in my memo.  It is also clear that the reasons being given by the DA for failing to act are an effort to disguise a blatant conflict of interest and abuse of discretion.

Let me explain.  In an article published by the Buffalo News on September 11, 2009, District Attorney Sedita makes the claim that election law investigations are difficult, time consuming and somehow of less importance.  District Attorney Sedita also makes clear that he will not look into Board of Elections complaints against G. Steven Pigeon because “he lacks staff and resources”.  The District Attorney admits that he “read the memoranda” on the Clark investigation and that the FBI “conducted most of that probe”.

The public has the right to know the truth.  The memorandum that I wrote on the Paul Clark investigation is 13 pages long with over 50 pages of attached documentation.  The FBI was very helpful and cooperative but it was always understood that it was the responsibility of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office to prosecute any Election Law crimes.

Here is more of the truth.  The investigation was very successful.  It was too successful for the powers that be.  Compelling evidence was discovered of various Election Law violations.  Paul Clark took some responsibility.  Roger Peck and Michael Mullins took some responsibility.  However, when Frank Sedita III took the oath of office to uphold the laws of New York State on January 1, 2009, there were matters that had not been resolved.  Those matters were addressed in my 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.

Our investigation revealed evidence of unregistered corporations, clandestine meetings, suspicious money transfers and phony explanations.  The investigation revealed that Timothy Clark was involved in many of these events as an agent of the campaign.  The prior District Attorney basically told the Buffalo News that last year.  What has not been said but is well known to District Attorney Sedita is that his friend, supporter and adviser G. Steven Pigeon working with Timothy Clark was also an agent of the Paul Clark campaign and was involved in a number of the transactions described in my memorandum of December 30, 2008.

It is now my understanding that Mr. Pigeon was instrumental in the endorsement and election of District Attorney Sedita.  This was all happening at the same time that our investigation was uncovering evidence of possible Election Law violations.

Prosecuting the powerless is easy.  The real test is when you are asked to investigate the powerful.  District Attorney Sedita so far has failed the test.  However all is not lost.  I call upon District Attorney Sedita to publically acknowledge and rectify his mistakes.  I call upon him to publically acknowledge his abuse of discretion and conflict of interest regarding the Clark investigation.  I ask District Attorney Sedita to follow the example of Cattaraugus County District Attorney Edward Sharkey and recuse himself from a case where he has a clear conflict of interest.  I call upon him to refer the case for review by an unbiased prosecutor.  I call upon him to share information with the New York State Board of Elections so that they can take appropriate action.  I call upon the District Attorney to reconsider his public comments, attitude and policy toward Election Law investigations.  As his present policy is disingenuous, erodes public confidence and encourages serial violators of the Election Law to continue their conduct to their own selfish, political and financial benefit.

Finally, I call upon District Attorney Sedita to apologize both publically and privately to myself and my family for his disgraceful conduct by retaliating against me.  Such conduct not only prevents justice from being done in this case, it discourages other prosecutors from acting responsibly and ethically in future cases for fear of retaliation.

The public has a right to expect all of the above from its chief law enforcement official.


  • Chet Morton

    Kudos to Sacha. He led the 2004 Aurora Barn (Doug Naylon-Dan Rider-Victor Getz-Maria Lehman) Grand Jury investigation and report. He is a talented, capable public servant. I have respect for him and his work.

  • Richie T

    That took guts and incredible integrity.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    this is his statement to who, exactly? sacha appears to be a disgruntled, recently-demoted employee who knows he can get play in the news, artvoice and on various local websites by denouncing steve pigeon.

    alo0ng with mccarthy & beebe, you’re becoming way too predictable geoff.

  • cocksucker

    Mike, how much does steve pay you to blow him everyday?

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    since the appropriately named cocksucker asked, i have not recieved dime one from pigeon, golisano or anyone else of geoff’s enemies list since the beginning of the year.

    geoff, the often inebriated bob mccarthy and others — on the other hand — have continued to print the most spurious of stories (byron brown and mickey kearns in dead heat, for example) without any recriminations whatsoever.

    and the money just rolls right in.

    when a dismissed former employee spews hate and seeks to criminalize politics, anything can happen, as saturday’s news article and geoff’s subsequent post here confirm.

    i’ve experienced it myself, first hand, and can say that the inconsequential toadies and bottom feeders can pose significant problems for an honest businessman.

  • http://AlbanysInsanity.com Rus Thompson

    Sacha says prosecutors feared retribution
    Retribution from WHOM? Pigeon? Not the voters but Pigeon? What a disgrace this is. I just called the Albany DA’s office and asked for help. Help from someone that will look into this and all the other political corruption in Western New York. We cannot sit idly by and watch, witness and allow this to either continue or go on any longer.

    How many times have you asked yourself. isn’t anyone going to do something about this corruption? We see it all the time and the DA is asleep at the switch refusing to do anything about it so it goes on and on and on. Now it is becoming more open and blatant. Two bags Mullen is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much going on behind the scenes that I know about and no one is doing anything to keep in in check.

    We really have to rely on the Board of Elections? They have to send a referral to the DA’s office in order for him to pursue it? Bull S%#T!
    They won’t turn in anyone unless it is a reform candidate or someone going after one of their own. Look how long they let Crystal Peoples get away with no filing her financial reports….. 5 years. We have to file reports even when I am not running for office or face a fine or penalty. All this is to keep their people protected and others in check. You want to do damage to their political patronage system? Then get ready to get attacked from all directions.

    I posted this in my blog and I will pursue this all the way to the feds if need be. I am sick to death of watching all this go on and everyone around us ignoring that we are a Nation of Laws. But of course who needs laws when the judicial system is bought and paid for by the “Parties”.

  • George Green

    So Mike, then you admit being paid by Pigeon? Doesn’t that immediately make whatever you say biased? What part of the statement from the prosecutor above is inappropriate? His opinion is based on the law. What part of your statements are appropriate? You are the editor of that newspaper and that hideous website? Your statements here, and your website, reflect nothing but a complete lack of professionalism. I think you are just looking for another payday from Pigeon.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    steve pigeon bought some advertising on behalf of some political candidates during the last election cycle in the newspaper i own. polititician buy ads in newspapers all the time, george. others who have bought ads in the reporter are vince anello, francine delmonte, paul dyster… what did it get them? is the buffalo news biased because of all the dough m&t bank spends with them? is artvoice biased because they are primarily supported by advertising placed by hookers and saloon keepers?

    i, of course, have no idea what you mean by “appropriate.” i do know that geoff and the others i’ve mentioned have a longrunning vendetta, which they chose to involve me in last year. geoff even had a standing feature at the time called “chasing pigeon.” it was ridiculous and childish then and it remains so a year later.

    as for my paper, the niagara falls reporter, we are now in our 10th year of business and doing very well, thank you. our 22,500 circulation tuesdays is higher than the niagara county circulation of the niagara gazette, the buffalo news or artvoice.

    thanks.

  • George Green

    Mike,

    I never saw your paper, but if your link here to your website is an indication, I won’t be subscribing any time soon.

    I don’t understand. Why would you care if an independent review of the evidence the prosecutor mentions is performed? As a editor of a newspaper, aren’t you as a journalist supposed to seek and print the facts? Can you show any facts to contradict what has been brought forth so far? Would it bring out that some of the money Pigeon gave you was laundered money? I’m lost as to your defense of Pigeon, who has been caught red-handed on several occasions, but never prosecuted.

    Oh…by the way…you spelled POLITICIAN wrong.

  • Chet Morton

    Fascinating to hear Joel Giambra on WBEN this morning being asked to comment about this. Obviously Susan Rose and John Zack have no clue. Joel, who clearly has an ax to grind against Sacha for the Aurora DPW investigation, telling people that he paid $10,000 to Steve Pigeon for “political consulting” to see if Joel might run for office again. Give me a break.

    Maybe Sacha is bringing this up now due to his anger towards Sedita about his downgrade. Maybe that’s true. But it does not mean the findings, evidence and conclusions are not correct and true. Anyone who knows or has tangled with Pigeon and Giambra knows how they handle campaigns and money. And the scenario Sacha says happened is all together very plausible and likely. Pigeon is the master of laundered money and campaign election violations.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    george…if any of this is true — and i don’t believe it is — if high ranking elected leaders here are so afraid of steve pigeon’s “retribution” that they refuse to do their jobs out of fear, then what we have goes far beyond the realm of election law violations. that kind of thing is called extortion, and instead of rus going all the way to the ridiculously politicized town of albany with some newspaper clippings he ought to go to the fbi office in downtown buffalo, because they would look into this i’m sure.

    who paid for the ads for candidates pigeon backed in the buffalo news?

    where does the money come from to pay for ads touting escort services, massage parlors and strip-tease joints in artvoice?

    there’s a lot more wrong with buffalo, niagara falls and all of western new york than steve pigeon. this place has been going to shit since before he was born. i’ve worked in cleveland, northwestern pennsylvania and new york city, and this is the single most corrupt place i’ve ever seen.

    corruption can take many forms, and in my view, the buffalo-niagara partnership, democratic chairman len lenihan and his niagara county flunky dan rivera, along with their cheerleaders in the media are far more responsible for conditions here than steve pigeon.

    what we’ve got with mr. sacha is one guy who was demoted in his job telling a story about his boss, his former boss and a guy for whom kelly, mccarthy and beebe have a longstanding and demonstrable antipathy for.

    that’s not a criminal case, it’s a soap opera.

  • brownsuxdik

    RIGHT ON SACHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • George Green

    Mike Hudson,

    No place in Mr. Sacha’s official statement above do I see your mention of “fear of retribution”. That part must have been written by the Buffalo News.

    I believe Mr. Sacha’s main point is a request for an independent review of the evidence collected, since it appears that DA Sedita and former DA Clark both apparently had a personal relationship with Mr. Pigeon.

    Why nobody has come forth and asked DA Sedita to just say YES or NO to whether he will do this amazes me. Where are all the politicians who made these charges before, like Michael Ranzenhofer, Sam Hoyt, Democratic Election Commissioner Dennis Ward and his legistature wife Michele M. Iannello?

  • Peter A Reese

    It is easy to attack Sacha. Arguendo, let’s assume that he is a dirty, rotten, !#**$#@!**.

    Now that we have that behind us, can someone in a position of authority and responsibility look into the factual allegations he raises? It appears that Pigeon has been dancing very close to the flame on this one and his support for Sedita was certainly no secret.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    ranzenhofer, hoyt and ward all have their own problems. the last thing they want is the fbi in here. makes good fodder around election time, then you never hear about it again. has the buffalo news run any stories about one sunset or that basketball player’s “stolen” handicapped parking banner? has the fbi raided buffalo city hall as many of the above named usual suspects in the media predicted it would?

  • brownsuxdik

    can’t wait to see byron leave, maybe stokes can drive him right to albany and park right in front of the capitol.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    i heard today that organized crime actually controls the escort services, massage parlors and phone sex lines whose advertising keeps artvoice afloat, albeit losing money every year. what we need here is a special prosecutor to look into this crooked racket, as local authorities are obviously not doing their jobs.

    imagine, a publication that promotes prostitution actually calling anyone “dirty.”

    hey geoff, gimme a call. we could do a piece together that would blow the lid off of mob money being laundered by legitimate businesses here! i hear it’s been going on for decades.

  • Popo Dung

    I worked for Mark Sedita as an ADA for four years. He is a stubborn, hot tempered bulldog. The one thing he is not is a liar. They can say what they want, but they have not said it ain’t true. Clark never asked his people if they were okay with the plea deals he offered, he told them they were okay with them.

    the problem with this story is that Sedita is right too. His office does not have the resources to investigate and prosecute this stuff when kids are being killed on the east side, drugs are killing kids in the southtowns, and we have no answer. But Sedita has not exactly provided a surge on those issues either.

  • George Green

    I think “Popo” meant Mark Sacha, not Mark Sedita.

    When you are working in a junk yard, you need a good honest junk yard dog.

    Check him out on video – http://www.wgrz.com/video/default.aspx?aid=56123

  • Cletus

    Gotta love Mike Hudson’s drunken rants, especially after reading a recent piece about him in some Lewiston trash-mag that blazes him just like he blazes others. Nothing the man writes has ANY credibility. His rag gets ‘advertising dollars’ from Maziarz, Pigeon, and Co., and nothing is funnier than when he writes one scathing story about a politician, then gives a hummer to Maziarz soon after. Please, people, for the love of God, don’t look this weasel in the eyes. I don’t live in town any longer, but I know his secrets. Not pretty. He can be found at the seediest of bars at all hours.

  • http://www.niagarafallsreporter.com mike hudson

    hey cletus, that’s no secret! anyway, sacha got canned today, and is now free to become another anonymous blogger. even his partner in the da’s office said there was no evidence against the COOPERATING WITNESS (pigeon) and sedita saw no reason to reopen a case closed by frank clark. the press will move on after the election as it did last year when this happened and sacha can figure out how to live without any money, as others have.