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Former Ironworkers leader Joe Dougherty guilty on all charges

The jury convicted him of RICO conspiracy, arson-related counts and extortion.

Former Philadelphia Ironworkers union boss Joseph Dougherty leaves the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, 2015.   ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )
Former Philadelphia Ironworkers union boss Joseph Dougherty leaves the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Jan. 5, 2015. ( CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer )Read more

ON ITS FIFTH day of deliberations yesterday, a federal jury convicted former Ironworkers union leader Joseph Dougherty of all charges against him - finding he conspired with union members to extort and commit violence against nonunion contractors.

Dougherty, 73, who hugged family members and friends outside the courtroom before the verdict, reacted only with a slight shake of the head when the jury foreman read all guilty verdicts on charges of racketeering conspiracy, arson and extortion.

As U.S. Marshals handcuffed Dougherty, dressed in a pin-striped suit, behind his back and led him from the courtroom, supporters yelled, "I love you, Dad!" and "We love you, boss!"

Moments earlier, defense attorney Fortunato Perri Jr. asked U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson to allow Dougherty to remain out on bail pending his April 29 sentencing. Because Dougherty has suffered two strokes and a heart attack, and last week was taken to a hospital after the start of jury deliberations, Perri said, Dougherty's personal physicians can better handle his medical conditions than the prison can.

But Baylson said that, by law, he had to order Dougherty committed to prison because Dougherty faces a mandatory-minimum sentence of 15 years behind bars on his convictions. He said Perri could schedule a hearing for tomorrow or next Thursday on this issue.

After the verdicts, one of Dougherty's sons, Joe Dougherty Jr., 50, said: "We disagree with the verdict," but thanked the jury for taking its time to deliberate.

"We love our father," he added. "We believe . . . in his innocence 100 percent."

The federal case, investigated by the FBI and other authorities, turned out to be a resounding success for prosecutors. Ten members of Ironworkers Local 401, including Dougherty, were indicted last February, and two others later were charged by a process called criminal information.

Of the 12 defendants, 11 pleaded guilty to their roles, leaving Dougherty the lone defendant to face trial, which started Jan. 5 and lasted seven days.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore simply said after the verdicts: "We presented the evidence. I certainly thought the evidence was pretty compelling."

Dougherty, who joined the union in 1966 and served as its business manager from 1998 to last February, was not accused of personally committing any of the 25 acts of arson or extortion listed in the indictment from 2008 to February 2014.

But prosecutors said he was guilty because he had agreed to conduct union business through a pattern of arsons and extortions in an effort to force nonunion contractors to hire union ironworkers on their jobs.

Seven of the 11 defendants who had pleaded guilty testified as government witnesses in the trial. Four other union members, who were not charged and were given immunity, also testified.

The jury also heard from nonunion contractors who were the victims of arson or extortion, and heard wiretapped phone calls, in which Dougherty was at times foulmouthed and talked of tearing down nonunion building sites.

Before the jury of seven women and five men began deliberating, Baylson last week granted a defense motion and dismissed two arson counts against Dougherty in connection with the December 2012 blaze and damage at a new Quaker meetinghouse site in Chestnut Hill, finding insufficient evidence for Dougherty to be charged in those crimes.

After the verdicts, Perri said that with those two charges dismissed, Dougherty was saved from a potential 35-year mandatory-minimum sentence behind bars if the jurors were to have deliberated on those charges and convicted Dougherty of them.

Perri said Dougherty was "disappointed" by the verdicts. The attorney said he would review the case for a "potential appeal."

Perri contended that Dougherty did not approve or order any attacks on nonunion building sites, and blamed the union's four business agents for the attacks.

The jury, however, apparently found otherwise. It convicted Dougherty of racketeering conspiracy; two arson-related counts in connection with damage done at a Grays Avenue warehouse in Southwest Philly in 2013; two arson-related counts in connection with a 2013 attempted arson in Malvern; and extortion of a nonunion builder who was erecting an apartment building at 31st and Spring Garden streets.