As prosecutors neared the conclusion of their federal bribery case against labor leader John Dougherty and City Councilmember Bobby Henon on Wednesday, defense lawyers pushed back against the allegation that Henon had accepted a bribe of free home windows in exchange for his vote to kill a 2016 audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl told jurors at the conclusion of the day’s testimony that the government could rest its case as early as Thursday. The proceedings would then shift to the defense presentation and witness testimony that is expected to take at least a few more days.
Dougherty, the head of the politically powerful Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has vowed to testify, quipping to reporters earlier in the trial that he has a lot to say.
“I’ll be up there a week,” he said. “This room will be packed.”
Whether he will follow through remains to be seen. When asked about his intentions again Monday, he flashed a smile and pointed finger guns at reporters, saying only: “Listen. Pay attention. You’ll be here.”
Meanwhile, with witness testimony Wednesday, prosecutors sought to advance their claims surrounding $3,000 worth of windows Henon arranged to have installed in 2016 at the home of his chief of staff, Courtney Voss, with whom he was romantically involved.
They’ve alleged that Henon obtained those windows as payment from Joseph Ashdale, who was then the chairman of the Philadelphia Parking Authority as well as the head of the union representing glaziers and glass fitters.
Ashdale sought Henon’s help after Councilmembers David Oh and Helen Gym introduced a resolution calling for a performance audit to see if the PPA should be sending more money to city schools. And Henon, after discussing the matter with Ashdale, first voted along with other members of Council to table the bill and then, three months later, eventually vote it down.
Cross-examining the FBI’s lead agent on the case Wednesday, Henon’s attorney, Brian McMonagle, questioned why Ashdale hadn’t been charged with a crime if the windows were a bribe as the government has alleged.
He also sought to show that despite Ashdale’s promise to Henon that Voss would only have to pay the labor costs for the installation of the windows — something the lawyer stressed that Henon had not asked for — she ultimately ended up paying the full $3,105 for the glass, too.
Matthew Trzaska, an organizing director for District Council 21 of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, told jurors that Ashdale had sent him out to Voss’ house on Pennypack Creek to measure it and provide an estimate.
And after he helped her contractor source the glass needed, he figured his involvement in the matter was done. But a month later, the supplier began sending bills for the glass to the union.
“I told [Ashdale], ‘We can’t pay these,’ ” he said. “Courtney Voss has to pay for this. She’s the one with the house.”
Trzaska said he even went as far as heading back out to Voss’ house and leaving a copy of the bill in her door frame. But for months that followed, it went unpaid.
Patrick McIntyre, owner of the Collingdale company that had provided the glass, testified that he even went as far as calling Henon directly in an effort to get paid.
“I was a small company and couldn’t afford my bills,” he said.
McIntyre acknowledged under cross-examination that Voss eventually paid the balance due in full — but only after several more calls to Henon’s office and more than two years after the glass was originally installed.
“[You] make sure you billed, because it wasn’t a favor, correct?” McMonagle asked.
But by the time Voss did start sending money to McIntyre, the FBI’s investigation of Henon had already burst into public view with a series of raids on his Council offices and sites tied to Local 98.
Her final payment came around the same time Henon was charged in January 2019 with accepting those windows as a bribe.
McMonagle has maintained that the windows had nothing to do with Henon’s vote on the PPA audit. While the councilmember and Ashdale often discussed the two issues in the same phone calls, one had nothing to do with the other, the defense lawyer has said.
He’s made a similar argument involving the primary alleged bribe at the heart of the government’s case: the more than $70,000-a-year salary Dougherty’s union continued to pay Henon even after his election to Council.
Prosecutors have alleged that Henon did nothing for the money except use the powers of his Council office to advance Dougherty’s personal and professional interests in government.
Testifying Wednesday about the 2016 FBI raids on Local 98′s Spring Garden Street headquarters, FBI Special Agent Jason Blake said he could find no evidence that Henon had an office there or had produced any memos, letters, notes or any other sign of legitimate work done for his union paycheck.
Defense lawyers, who have contended that Henon performed a number of duties for the union, will have the opportunity to question Blake on that issue when the trial resumes Thursday.
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