Former Philadelphia union boss gets 19 years prison for racketeering

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 20, 2015 4:02 PM

(Reuters) - A former longtime boss of Philadelphia's Ironworkers Union was sentenced to more than 19 years in prison on Monday after being convicted of racketeering conspiracy for waging a guerilla war against nonunion contractors.

A judge in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia sentenced Joseph Dougherty, 73, to 230 months behind bars and ordered him to pay $558,041 restitution to his victims.

If he is ever released from prison, Dougherty must undergo three years of supervised release, the judge ordered.

Dougherty, who served as the business manager and treasurer of Ironworkers Local 401, was convicted in January of conspiring with union members to intimidate, extort and commit violence against non-union contractors.

"The defendants created 'goon' squads, composed of union members and associates to commit assaults, arsons and destruction of property," U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger said in a statement. "One such squad referred to itself as 'The Helpful Union Guys,' 'T.H.U.G's'."

The prosecutor listed several arson incidents in Philadelphia, including one at the Quaker Meetinghouse and one at a warehouse under construction on Grays Avenue, saying Dougherty "personally handed" an acetylene torch to one of his co-defendants to light the fire.

"Fear, intimidation and violence should not be part of any union's operational handbook and will not be tolerated in this district," Memeger said.

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Dougherty's lawyer, Mark Cedrone, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In wiretapped phone conversations, Dougherty said his motivation was the union's deteriorating financial situation, particularly its health fund.

During his trial, the defense maintained the acts were not ordered by Dougherty but rather were committed by underlings vying to succeed their aging leader.

Nearly a dozen co-defendants who worked under Dougherty have pleaded guilty in the case.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)