Embattled labor leader John J. Dougherty, who is already fighting federal charges that he bribed a Philadelphia City Council member and embezzled from his union, was indicted again Wednesday — this time over accusations that he threatened a union contractor who employed his nephew.
Prosecutors said Dougherty — the 60-year-old head of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — vowed last year to prevent the contractor from getting future electrical work in the city after his nephew, Gregory Fiocca, assaulted the man in an argument over his pay.
Fiocca, 28, who was also charged Wednesday, is accused of grabbing his manager at the worksite by the throat, throwing him on a desk, and threatening to “break his [expletive] face” if he did not pay him in full for a job prosecutors said he rarely showed up for.
“These charges represent an abuse of power and a sense of entitlement that crossed the line,” acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a news conference announcing the charges Wednesday. “No one should fear economic reprisal or physical violence simply for trying to do honest business in Philadelphia. Union business is no exception.”
The 19-count conspiracy and extortion indictment filed against both men only adds to the growing legal jeopardy that Dougherty, known universally by the nickname “Johnny Doc,” now finds himself in after nearly three decades leading his union and as one of the city’s leading labor advocates.
His trial on the earlier bribery charges is scheduled for May, and, in January, the Department of Labor sued his union, alleging he and others threatened Local 98 members who challenged Dougherty’s favored candidates in internal union elections.
The new set of charges came the same day that prosecutors indicted Donna Mangini, a nurse Dougherty employs to care for his ailing wife, in a separate case alleging she was illegally collecting pandemic unemployment benefits while working in the couple’s home.
With his client now under threat from multiple cases, any one of which could send him to prison for years, Dougherty’s spokesperson, Frank Keel, decried Wednesday’s arrests.
“This isn’t a prosecution,” he said. “It’s a persecution.”
Both Keel and Dougherty’s lawyer, Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., pointed to the fact that the FBI arrested the labor leader and his nephew in early morning raids at their homes rather than granting them the opportunity to turn themselves in.
Video of the arrest at Fiocca’s South Philadelphia home shared with The Inquirer shows a team of roughly 10 agents decked out in helmets and protective gear loudly banging on the door in the predawn hours before attacking it with a battering ram.
As with the other cases Dougherty is facing, Hockeimer said, the labor leader intends to fight the new charges in court.
Prosecutors did not name the contractor at the center of the latest case Wednesday but laid out a startling narrative of a workplace dispute that quickly grew violent. Though he declined to comment on the case, Raymond Palmieri of R. Palmieri Electrical Contractors Inc. identified himself to The Inquirer as the owner of the business in question.
According to the indictment, Dougherty installed Fiocca as the union steward of a project run by Palmieri’s company and staffed by Local 98 workers in 2019. But disputes quickly arose over the fact that Fiocca rarely showed up to work or completed his assigned job responsibilities, prosecutors said.
And when Palmieri and his employees docked Fiocca’s pay, he allegedly responded with violence. Fiocca’s manager at the job site, who was not named in the indictment, said Fiocca threw him onto a desk during an argument in August.
“You owe me 36 hours before I break your [expletive] jaw,” he purportedly told the manager in one exchange quoted in the indictment. “There’s nothing you can do to me. … You think you’re untouchable? I’ll break all of you. I’ll [expletive] break your face and [Palmieri’s] face.”
Afterward, Dougherty threatened to pull all Local 98 workers from the job and later told Palmieri he would frustrate his future attempts to work in the city, prosecutors said.
Three Local 98 representatives showed up later that afternoon and, while on the phone with Dougherty, allegedly informed Palmieri’s staff that Fiocca would remain in his position and that nothing was going to change.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that Fiocca continued to be paid by the contractor until January of this year despite ongoing attendance problems at work.
“These kinds of actions are not simply the cost of doing business in Philadelphia,” said Williams, the U.S. attorney. “They are crimes and will be prosecuted.”
She balked at the suggestion from Dougherty and his allies that authorities were seeking to overwhelm him with an ever-expanding list of charges and said they only “follow the evidence wherever it might lead.”
Williams declined to discuss the case against Mangini, the nurse, at the news conference Wednesday, referring to it only as a separate matter.
But it became a point of concern during court hearings for both her and Dougherty earlier in the day.
As U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Hey approved the labor leader’s release while awaiting trial, she ordered him to avoid contact with any codefendants or potential witnesses in his case — a potential problem because Mangini has been caring for Dougherty’s ailing wife, Ceillie, in their home since 2016.
Prosecutors have accused her of collecting nearly $15,000 in unemployment benefits between May and November of last year even while the Doughertys were paying her more than $5,500 a month on average. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Dougherty is not accused of any wrongdoing in that case and, ultimately, the judge allowed Mangini to continue her employment in the Doughertys’ home, though advised them not to discuss their cases.
Fiocca, who remains in federal custody, is scheduled to attend his first court hearing on Friday. It was not immediately clear whether he had retained an attorney.