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John Dougherty and Bobby Henon trial: Day-by-day updates

Daily updates on the federal trial of labor leader John J. Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilmember Bobby Henon.

Labor leader John J. Dougherty arrives Oct. 4 at the federal courthouse on Sixth and Market Streets in Center City for the the first day of his federal bribery and corruption trial.
Labor leader John J. Dougherty arrives Oct. 4 at the federal courthouse on Sixth and Market Streets in Center City for the the first day of his federal bribery and corruption trial.Read moreALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer

Union leader John J. Dougherty and Philadelphia City Councilmember Bobby Henon are in court, more than two years after they were charged in a federal bribery and corruption case. The outcome could shape the future of organized labor, politics, and public corruption investigations in the city for years to come.

Here’s a recap of the latest developments and recent coverage:

Jury Deliberations

Day 23, Nov. 11: Jurors spent much of their second day of deliberations cloistered behind closed doors, continuing their discussions. The briefly emerged at points, asking the judge to repeat his instructions on the federal bribery and honest services wire fraud statutes — the central charges in the case. But they did not reach a verdict by the end of the day. Read more: As it happened

» READ MORE: Jurors are deliberating in the John Dougherty and Bobby Henon trial. Here are the key issues they’re weighing.

Day 22, Nov. 10: The jury of seven women and five men returned to court, after all being rapid tested for the coronavirus. So far their results have come back negative, Schmehl said, before instructing the panel on the law they will use to decide the case. Jurors spent the rest of the afternoon deliberating for about four and a half hours before breaking for the day without a verdict. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 21, Nov. 9: On the day jury deliberations were set to begin, proceedings came to a halt as U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl announced one of the jurors had tested positive for COVID-19. The juror, who was excused the day prior for what the judge described at the time as a “personal matter,” was replaced by an alternate. The rest of the panel spent the day being rapid tested. Schmehl vowed the deliberations would continue and jurors would be regularly tested. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Closing arguments

Day 20, Nov. 8: The defense rested and, in their final pitches to the jury, lawyers on both sides clashed on how to define the relationship between Dougherty and Henon. Prosecutors said Dougherty bought himself a councilmember through a union salary of $70,000-a-year, plus benefits, and occasional Eagles tickets. But the defense pushed back noting that Henon had always been an avowedly pro-labor politician and the fact that he and Dougherty saw eye to eye on many issues facing the city doesn’t mean he was bribed. Read more: Full story | As it happened


Day 19, Nov. 4: As the defense began to wrap up its case, Henon’s chief of staff Courtney Voss, with whom he has been romantically linked, testified, telling jurors: “I know with every fiber of my being that he did not do anything wrong.” But Voss’ testimony, which swung wildly between confident assessments of the good Henon had done for his district and moments of raw emotion, ended with her rushing from the courtroom near tears and at times sobbing to the point of near speechlessness. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 18, Nov. 3: Defense testimony shifted focus to Henon with a string of character witnesses including fellow elected officials, community leaders, and a priest called to extoll the good work the councilmember does in the community. But some of the day’s witnesses were more specifically focused on beating back the government’s case, including testimony on Local 98′s distribution of Eagles tickets and the behind-the-scenes political rallying for the soda tax. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 17, Nov. 2: Prosecutors officially rested their case, and the defense began calling a parade of witnesses, including those who spoke to Dougherty’s nearly three-decade tenure leading one of the city’s most powerful unions and those directly involved in the 2015 incident at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that has become a central plank of the prosecution’s case. Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, acting on a defense motion, threw out one of the counts that Dougherty had been facing finding prosecutors had not sufficiently linked him to the crime. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 16, Nov. 1: With the jury dismissed for the day, lawyers for Dougherty and Henon urged the judge to dismiss the charges mid-trial, arguing that there was no possible way a jury could conclude they were guilty based on the evidence the government presented. Such requests — known as Rule 29 motions — are typical at the midpoint of criminal trials. It’s exceedingly rare, but not unheard of, for a judge to grant one. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl did not immediately rule on the defense motion and is expected to issue an order in the coming days. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 15, Oct. 28: Prosecutors concluded their presentation of evidence, but stopped short of officially resting their case —something they said they intend to do when court resumes Monday. Before that, the FBI’s lead agent on the case testified about more than $20,000 in tickets to Eagles, Phillies, and NCAA basketball games Henon received from Dougherty between 2015 and 2016. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 14, Oct. 27: As prosecutors neared the end of their case, Henon pushed back against the government’s claim that he helped squash a proposed 2016 audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority in exchange for free windows installed at the home of his chief of staff and romantic partner, Courtney Voss. Henon’s lawyer noted that Voss eventually paid the more than $3,000 bill for the windows. However that payment came more than two years after they were installed and around the same time Henon was charged in a federal indictment for accepting them as a bribe. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 13, Oct. 26: Prosecutors shifted their focus to another scheme outlined in their indictment — an allegation that Henon helped squash a proposed audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority in 2016 in exchange for discounted window installation at the home of his chief of staff, Courtney Voss, with whom he was romantically involved. Jurors heard wiretaps between Henon and then-PPA chair Joseph Ashdale discussing both a plan to vote down the audit. In many of the same conversations, Henon asked Ashdale, who is also head of the union representing glass fitters, for assistance with the glass needed in Voss’ home. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 12, Oct. 25: Jurors heard more wiretap recordings of conversations between Dougherty and others in the months surrounding the city’s 2015 franchise renegotiations with Comcast, which revealed the labor leader aggressively pressuring Henon to use the Council process to extract concessions from the cable giant beneficial to the union. But defense lawyers pushed back, arguing what the tapes showed was an aggressive lobbying effort by Dougherty, not evidence of a federal bribery crime. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 11, Oct. 20: A former Comcast vice president offered jurors a distinctly different account of a private 2015 meeting between Dougherty and the cable giant’s representatives than that described by a Henon staffer the day before. Kathleen Sullivan, the former vice president for government relations at Comcast, testified that while Dougherty was seeking more work for his union members he was cordial during the session in Henon’s offices and said she had always enjoyed a “friendly” relationship with the labor leader. But wiretap recordings played later in the day revealed Dougherty’s true thoughts about Sullivan and the company she represented. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 10, Oct. 19: An ex-aide to Henon told jurors about a secret side deal that John Dougherty hammered out in private with during negotiations surrounding the city’s franchise agreement with Comcast in 2015. The deal, discussed in a closed door meeting held in Henon’s office, began with Dougherty, representing the city’s building trades, threatening to use his clout to kill the Comcast bill if he didn’t get what what he wanted and ended with an agreement from Comcast that they would hire unionized workers for building out their cable network in the city if they charged competitive rates. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 9, Oct. 18: As the government’s collection of wiretap recordings continued, prosecutors focused on the jockeying behind the soda tax bill and an 2015 incident in which Dougherty called Henon suggesting they needed to open Council investigations into a towing company after it tried to tow Dougherty’s car. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 8, Oct. 15: Prosecutors closed out the second week of their case with a focus on the financial records behind Henon’s more than $70,000-a-year union salary and testimony from Daniel Grace, head of a local Teamster’s union, who was baffled by the councilmember’s sudden flip on the soda tax proposal. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 7, Oct. 14: Deputy Mayor Richard Lazer, the highest-ranked city official to testify in the trial so far, took the witness stand and his testimony made clear that Dougherty viewed Lazer as his man inside the Kenney administration. From calling on Lazer to help his dispute with a tow truck driver to telling Lazer he’d lobby to get him placed on Kenney’s cabinet, Dougherty and Lazer often found ways to help each other both professionally and personally. While prosecutors have not accused Lazer of any impropriety, his testimony offered a revealing look at the ways Doc has built allies and expended his influence at all levels of government. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 6, Oct. 13: The trial’s focus shifted to the one incident charged in the indictment that has little to do with Dougherty: a 2016 Council hearing on Verizon’s progress in building out its FiOS network in Philadelphia hosted by Henon. Prosecutors have alleged that Henon accepted bribes in the form of campaign contributions from Local 13000 of the Communications Workers of America in exchange for hosting the hearing. Jurors heard wiretap conversations between Henon and CWA president Jim Gardler in which they plotted calling a hearing ostensibly for Council to get an update on Verizon’s progress but which Gardler hoped could be used to publicly embarrass the telecommunications giant so that he could use that as leverage in his union’s ongoing contract negotiations with the company. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 5, Oct. 12: Jurors heard from Carlton Williams, the former head of the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections, who described the active role Henon played in forwarding complaints about potential code violations for inspectors to investigate. Williams said Dougherty once threatened he could have him replaced, while pressing L&I to investigate the construction of a controversial apartment building that had drawn the ire of the city’s labor unions. The day also featured testimony from a former top deputy in Henon’s office, Chris Creelman, who described the “uncomfortable” atmosphere among the councilmember’s staffers in the weeks after the FBI raided his City Hall office as part of the Dougherty investigation. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 4, Oct. 7: Attorneys cross-examined FBI Special Agent Jason Blake, one of the lead investigators in the case, with Henon’s lawyer attempting to drive home one of the key planks of the councilmember’s defense: If so many other members of Council earn outside income, how is Henon’s job with Dougherty’s union any different? But prosecutors pushed back, noting none of those other members so often involve their outside employer in city business. Jurors also heard from witnesses involved in Dougherty’s efforts in 2015 to stop nonunion contractors from installing MRI machines at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Day 3, Oct. 6: Prosecutors introduced excerpts of dozens of recorded conversations caught on FBI wiretaps of Dougherty’s and Henon’s phones in an effort to show the councilmember again and again serving as the cudgel with which Dougherty advanced his interests in government. From fights over plumbing codes, spats with rival unions, and efforts to advance Local 98′s interests, Dougherty was heard boasting again and again to others of what “Bobby [was] going to do” for him. But the defense challenged, noting despite what Dougherty might have told others about Henon, few of the calls showed Dougherty directly asking Henon to do much of anything. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Opening statements

Day 2, Oct. 5: Before the first day of testimony, lawyers on both sides of the case presented their opening statements to the jury. Prosecutors cast Dougherty and Henon as partners in a “corrupt agreement,” and that the councilmember did the labor leader’s bidding on Council in exchange for a union salary. The defense balked at that description and cast Henon and Dougherty as allies in the fight for union laborers in the city. Afterward, the government called their first witness, FBI Special Agent Jason Blake, and began playing clips from their 16-month wiretap of Dougherty. Read more: Full story | As it happened

Jury selection

Day 1, Oct. 4: The twelve jurors who will decide the fates of Dougherty and Henon were selected on the trial’s opening day. But as the selection process played out, Dougherty showed up brimming with confidence, predicting from the outset that he would be acquitted and condemning federal authorities’ efforts over more than a decade to bring a case against him. Read more: Full story | As it happened

The set-up: Bobby Henon has called John Dougherty his “best friend,” a valued constituent and an unwavering ally over decades in the fight to advance the cause of organized labor in the city. Federal prosecutors paint him as Henon’s puppet master who bought his vote with a steady stream of bribes. The question of which version of their relationship is closer to the truth will be put to a federal jury starting this week, as their long-delayed bribery trial begins. Read more: Full story

Keep up with every development in John Dougherty and Bobby Henon’s case with our day-by-day recaps, live coverage, and explainer on everything you need to know about the case.