A New York judge was found dead just short of two weeks after his house was raided by investigators.
The New York Post reports that John Michalski, an acting justice on the Erie County Supreme Court, died by suicide Tuesday at his Amherst home, where federal and state law enforcement officers had executed a search warrant 12 days earlier, the Buffalo News reported. He was 61.
“It’s heartbreaking,” defense attorney Terrence Connors told the newspaper. “He was such a good guy. This just didn’t have to happen.”
Michalski, who was appointed to the New York Court of Claims, and as an acting Supreme Court justice in 2006, had been eyed by investigators for years, but no criminal charges were ever filed against him. His looming legal woes seemed to be “manageable,” Connors told the newspaper.
The judge’s death came a little over a year after he was struck by a slow-moving freight train in Depew, in what was believed to be a suicide attempt. He suffered a serious leg injury, but survived.
Days after the February 2021 incident, Michalski was questioned by federal agents about his friendship with Peter Gerace Jr., the owner of a strip club in Cheektowaga and a former client, the Buffalo News reported.
Michalski was injured by the freight train on the same day Gerace was charged with several felonies, including drug and sex trafficking, as well as bribing a federal agent. Gerace denies the allegations, according to the newspaper.
Years earlier, Michalski was eyed by the feds as investigators probed Gerace and a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Joseph Bongiovanni, in June 2019.
The DEA agent told investigators Gerace was pals with Michalski. Their friendship dates back two decades, attorney Anthony Lana, who was also representing the judge, told the Buffalo News.
Evidently Michalski had been using his position to influence cases involving Grace for years getting favors that ranged from leniency in charges to leniency in sentencing. He was also the subject of an investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office connected to possible corruption. That investigation proved fruitless.
Michalski leaves behind a wife and four children.