Indicted Philly Union Leader Seeks to Cut Ties to Top Official

PHILADELPHIA (CN) – Representing the president of a powerful Philadelphia electricians’ union, an attorney argued Wednesday that his client should not be tried on charges of bribery and embezzlement alongside prominent union official John “Doc” Dougherty.

Prominent union leader John Dougherty, right, makes some brief comments to the media on Aug. 5, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File)

Brian Burrows did not participate in the same alleged crimes Dougherty is accused of committing against the Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, attorney Thomas Bergstrom of Buchanan Ingersoll maintained Wednesday.

Before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl in Philadelphia, Bergstrom argued that the law only permits the government to charge “two or more defendants if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transactions.”

Attorneys for four other union officials, a city councilmember and a local business owner linked to Dougherty did not speak but indicated to the judge that they echoed Bergstrom’s argument on behalf of their clients.

In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello maintained that because all of the charged union officials participated in spending IBEW Local 98’s money inappropriately, the defendants are legally linked because they all share a “transactional nexus.”

In addition to Burrows and Dougherty, others charged in the case include Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon, Local 98 employees Michael Neill, Marita Crawford, Niko Rodriguez and Brian Fiocca, and Anthony Massa, owner of a local construction business.

The eight defendants were charged in January. The indictment claims Dougherty, who has served as business manager of the Local 98 since 1993, used the union’s funds “as his personal bank account and as a means to obtain employment for himself, his family, and his friends.”

According to prosecutors, Dougherty used, and allowed others to use, three Local 98 American Express credit cards in his name to make personal purchases, including groceries, household supplies and meals.

Dougherty also allegedly used union funds to pay contractors who did plumbing, roof, and wall repairs on a South Philadelphia tavern he owns, as well as work done on his home.

At least $600,000 was embezzled from the union and its apprentice training fund between 2010 and 2016, prosecutors claim.

“Under federal law, and the constitution and by-laws of the union, these assets could only be used for legitimate business expenses of the union,” the indictment states. “The leadership and other members of Local 98 were prohibited from using the funds and other assets of Local 98 for their personal benefit.”

In a Tuesday memo supporting Burrows’ motion to sever charges for a separate trial, his attorneys argued that the alleged conspiracies in the case “are based on completely separate factual allegations, involve entirely distinct proofs, and have different sets of victims.”

“This case consists of allegations of two separate and distinct criminal schemes: one to embezzle funds from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98, and one to pay Councilman Robert Henon a salary from Local 98 in return for his taking certain actions to benefit John Dougherty and the Union,” the memo states. “The involvement of Mr. Dougherty in both the Conspiracy Counts and the Embezzlement Counts – the only link between the two alleged conspiracies – is not sufficient to render joinder proper.”

Judge Schmehl did not indicate when he intends to rule on Burrows’ motion to sever.

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