Ironworkers boss gets 19 years

Ironworkers boss gets 19 years
The Philadelphia Inquirer/Charles Fox

A former leaderof Philadelphia’s Ironworkers Union was sentenced to 19 years in prison on Monday fora conspiracy to terrorizeand intimidate non-union contractors.

Joseph Dougherty, 73, was convicted in January for racketeering conspiracy and arson-related chargesat a trial that saw seven union members testify that they vandalized, and at times used torched job sites.

While Dougherty never took part in the sabotage, members of the union often told him of it after the fact in an effort to curry favor with him and get placed on job sites.

“He never said ‘no,'” U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said Monday as he remarked on Philadelphia’s reputation for union violence. “He never said ‘don’t do that anymore.'”

The verdict angered many members of the union, who said Dougherty was being railroaded into prison by former union members who testified to get favorable sentences for themselves.

“He’s going to prison for cursing on a couple of telephone conversations,” said Steve DeMarco, a member of Local 401 for 37 years who rallied with dozens of other union members outside the federal courthouse. “There was a lot of false testimony, guys just wanting to make deals.”

Prosecutors, however, said that Dougherty was at the top of the food chain. Eleven other union officials and workers pleaded guilty in the case, and seven of them testified against Doughtery, who was the only person charged to go to trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore said wiretaps captured Dougherty referring to himself as “the boss” of the union, and going so far as to giving the green light for acts of vandalism on the same day he had surgery. They also said Dougherty manipulated elections at the union to ensure that those who planned sabotage rose in the ranks.

Dougherty’s defense lawyer arguedthat there was little evidence connecting the actual sabotage to the union’s former business manager.

“Joe Dougherty was sentenced to 19 years in jail today for failing to supervise a bunch of guys who thought they were gangsters,” said one of Dougherty’s attorneys, Mark Cedrone.

Cedrone said he planned to appeal Dougherty’s conviction and sentence, a fact perhaps reinforced by members of the audience who shouted, “It ain’t over, Joe,” as the former union boss was led away in handcuffs.