IN A LOUD VOICE, and leaning on a cane, Edward Sweeney - until recently a top leader of Ironworkers Local Union 401 - pleaded not guilty during his arraignment yesterday to a host of federal charges slapped against him last week.

Dressed in a black jacket, with the words "U.S. Paratrooper" and "82nd Airborne Division Association" on the back, the 55-year-old did not comment outside the courtroom when asked about the federal allegations and about Sarina Rose, a vice president at Post Brothers Apartments, with whom he had an encounter last year near the Goldtex site that landed him in Municipal Court.

Sweeney was acquitted in the Municipal Court case, in part because of a state loophole that allows a party in a labor dispute to harass another party.

Carmen Nasuti, his lawyer in the federal case - which alleges that Sweeney and nine other ironworkers threatened, committed or conspired to acts of violence against contractors - said after the arraignment: "He pled not guilty and we plan to contest the charges."

Indicted on Feb. 18 were the local's leadership - its business manager, Joseph Dougherty, 72, and its four business agents; Sweeney, Christopher Prophet, 43, Francis Sean O'Donnell, 43, and William O'Donnell, 61 - as well as five other members.

Sweeney, described in the indictment as "one of the most vocal supporters of using violence, arson, and other criminal conduct to force nonunion contractors to use union labor," is charged with racketeering conspiracy and arson offenses.

Six of the defendants entered their not-guilty pleas last week.

Yesterday, two others were also arraigned. Prophet, of Richboro, charged with racketeering conspiracy, pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Timothy Tarpey, said outside court that his client is "a hardworking, family man."

Richard Ritchie, 44, of East Falls, entered a not-guilty plea on racketeering conspiracy and violent crime in aid of racketeering.

James Walsh, 49, of Tacony, has his arraignment next week, and is expected to plead not guilty.