Federal prosecutors concluded their presentation of evidence in the bribery trial of John Dougherty and Bobby Henon on Thursday with a focus on more than $20,000 in sports tickets they allege the labor leader gave the city councilmember as a bribe.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank R. Costello Jr. told the court at the conclusion of the day’s proceedings that the government had wrapped up its expected testimony but reserved the right to hold off on officially resting its case until court resumes next week.
Whether or not prosecutors return with any last-minute testimony, lawyers for Dougherty and Henon are expected to begin calling defense witnesses on Monday.
Dougherty gave no indication whether he will be among those called to the witness stand. Instead, he chatted and joked with reporters and supporters as lawyers for both sides spent the afternoon cloistered in U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl’s chambers preparing for the trial’s next phase.
Both Dougherty, the longtime head of the politically powerful Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Henon, a union electrician elected to Council in 2011, have forcefully denied the government’s primary allegation: that the more than $70,000-a-year salary the union has continued to pay Henon is a bribe.
But before concluding their case Thursday, prosecutors zeroed in on another benefit they say Dougherty used to buy Henon’s loyalty.
With the FBI’s lead case agent, Jason Blake, back on the witness stand, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben walked jurors through a series of sporting events Henon and his guests attended between 2015 and 2016 with tickets given to him by Dougherty.
At times, like during the 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament, it was Henon asking for tickets for himself and his family. At others, Dougherty offered access to Local 98′s box — including more than two dozen tickets, parking and a spread of food and drinks at Lincoln Financial Field.
Henon did not report any tickets — including those to a 2015 lacrosse tournament and to Eagles and Phillies games — as gifts on the financial disclosure forms he files as a member of Council.
And in an April 2016 wiretap recording played for jurors, he urged one of his Council colleagues to do the same.
Councilmember Helen Gym accepted Henon’s invitation to attend a December 2015 Eagles game against the Buffalo Bills along with then-Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, former Mayor John Street, and a member of Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s staff.
But when she called Henon months later asking how to list those tickets on her financial disclosure forms, Henon said neither he nor any of the others in attendance planned to do so.
“With Local 98 it’s a little different,” he said. “They get the box and … keep no log. … There’s no trail of anything.”
Gym again asked Henon whether he wanted her to leave the tickets off her disclosure form. She then added she’d check her social media to see if she’d posted anything from the game before making her final decision.
Ethics filings show she, Kenney, and Johnson ultimately did not end up reporting those tickets.
Gym’s communications director Eric Schulz said Thursday that she “felt uncomfortable” after that 2016 conversation with Henon and, after consulting with an attorney, subsequently filed an amended financial interest form to report the Eagles tickets in 2018.
That statement could not be found on the city’s online records portal Thursday.
Henon’s lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, conceded that his client had given Gym bad advice. But he noted that pushing her not to report the tickets was, at worst, a city ethics violation — not a federal crime.
While cross-examining Blake, he argued that the tickets were no more a bribe in Henon’s case than they were for any other member of Council who accepted them.
What’s more, he maintained, Henon — as a part-time employee of Local 98 even while he served on Council — had the same access to the private box it maintained at sporting events as other executive-level members of the union.
The union routinely buys suites or blocks of tickets for Eagles, Sixers, and Phillies games and uses them to invite neighborhood leaders, contractors, and public officials as a way of building good relations both in business and in the community, McMonagle said.
And while prosecutors have argued that Henon’s union job was effectively a no-show position, McMonagle reminded jurors that he’s said from the start that one of the duties of the councilmember’s union position was acting as a liaison between Local 98 and his fellow elected officials. Occasionally taking them out on behalf of the union, he said, only built goodwill.
Dougherty jokingly offered his own rejection of any notion that those December 2015 Eagles tickets were a bribe earlier in the trial.
“The Eagles game by the way was against the Bills,” he told reporters during a break in court. “And in 2015, that was not a great game.”
Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this article.
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