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Courts & Justice

Philly labor leader, council member convicted of conspiracy in federal corruption trial

Philadelphia Union Boss Indictment
Matt Rourke
/
AP
Johnny "Doc" Dougherty walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.

A jury has found City Councilmember Bobby Henon and electricians union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty guilty on the majority of counts in the federal corruption case against them, giving U.S. Justice Department investigators and prosecutors a win in their more than decade-long effort to put the powerful labor leader behind bars.

Dougherty was convicted of eight of the 11 charges he faced, and Henon 10 of 18 counts. The jury found both men guilty of conspiracy and honest services fraud and Henon guilty of bribery. They acquitted Dougherty on three additional counts of honest services fraud and acquitted Henon on eight additional counts, including honest services fraud and federal program bribery.

The verdict announced Monday afternoon comes more than six years after the FBI began secretly wiretapping phones belonging to Henon and Dougherty, and five years after the federal investigation exploded into public view with early-morning raids on their offices and Dougherty’s home.

Henon and Dougherty remained expressionless as the verdict was announced and those assembled in the packed courtroom were quiet as the jury foreman read off the verdict sheet.

After the verdict was announced, the prosecutor argued that Dougherty’s bail should be revoked and he should be immediately jailed, but Judge Jeffrey Schmehl denied the request.

The two men each face up to 20 years in jail for the most serious of the charges, although they can argue for shorter terms and can appeal their convictions. Henon will have to give up his council seat and government pension when they are sentenced at hearings scheduled for late February.

The jury agreed with prosecutors’ contention that Dougherty, business manager at Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since 1993, bribed Henon in 2015 and 2016 with a $70,000 salary and benefits for a no-show union job. The bribe also included nearly $20,000 worth of tickets to Philadelphia Eagles games and other sporting events.

In return, Henon served as a council member on retainer to Dougherty, helping him attack his rivals in other unions and pressure large employers to hire union electricians, prosecutors said.

Henon also was offered or took bribes from two other sources, former Philadelphia Parking Authority board chair Joseph Ashdale and James Gardler, president of Communication Workers of America Local 13000.

The indictment of Henon and Dougherty in 2019 upended the political scene in Philadelphia, where Dougherty was long considered one of the city’s most powerful unelected officials. His union is the state’s single biggest independent source of campaign funding, typically donating more than $2 million a year to political candidates and committees. The majority has supported Democrats, including his brother, state Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty.

Henon, a former electrician, ran for City Council in 2011 with support from the union and represented the 6th District in Northeast Philadelphia for nearly a decade. Before that, the father of two served as Local 98’s political director for eight years.