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John Dougherty found guilty in federal embezzlement, conspiracy trial

Former labor leader John Dougherty found guilty in federal embezzlement trial
Former labor leader John Dougherty found guilty in federal embezzlement trial 02:28

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Former Philadelphia labor titan John Dougherty and co-defendant Brian Burrows were found guilty Thursday by a jury in their federal embezzlement trial. Dougherty and Burrows will be sentenced in mid-March.

Both Dougherty and Burrows face significant amounts of jail time, according to sources. 

It was a stunning defeat for "Johnny Doc" inside federal court. Dougherty and his co-defendant, Burrows, were convicted on virtually all charges. The jury found they used IBEW Local 98 money like it was their debit card.

"I've answered all your questions for weeks," Dougherty said after the verdict. "I'm heading home -- you know where I'm headed. That's what I'll do. I couldn't be more square with all you guys, you know that."

Just convicted on dozens of counts of conspiracy and embezzlement, Dougherty said he was focused on getting home to his wife Cecilia. A deciding factor by the judge to allow the once-powerful union boss to remain out of prison pending sentencing was that he cares for his sick wife around the clock.

"It's the worst-kept secret in Philadelphia. That's what I do," Dougherty said. "For six years, I stay home with Cecilia. I don't bring it up. I never used it as a crutch."

The jury had been wrestling for three days with allegations Dougherty used funds from the electrician's union IBEW Local 98 to make an avalanche of personal purchases -- which prosecutors said amounted to more than $600,000.

Dougherty was also accused of using union money to pay contractors for work done at homes and businesses owned by himself, as well as friends and family.

Former Philadelphia labor titan John Dougherty and co-defendant Brian Burrows were found guilty Thursday by a jury in their federal embezzlement trial. CBS News Philadelphia

Dougherty was also on the hook for claims he hired nieces and nephews for no-show work with the union, according to prosecutors.

Wiretap evidence, spreadsheets, grids, ledgers, bank statements and a so-called "binder of madness" kept by one of the prosecution's key witnesses were introduced to try to convince the jury panel Dougherty committed a pattern of crimes in spending Local 98 cash.

"He was stealing from his members," Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello said. "Basically, all the charges are related to that."

Dougherty's co-defendant, Burrows, an ex-union president, was also convicted in the scheme. His alleged crime -- hiring contractor Anthony Massa, the government's key witness, to renovate a bathroom in his home for tens of thousands of dollars. Burrows, evidence showed, directed Massa to submit the work bill directly to Local 98.

Dougherty has vehemently maintained his innocence. His defense team has attempted to discredit the government's chief witness, Massa, as a liar.    

"The jury elected to believe Tony Massa. The case was over," Dougherty said after leaving the courtroom. "The minute they believed Tony Massa, the case was over. So everything else just fell in line. Once you believe the first one with Tony Massa, you just check the boxes. We have a lot of things to consider, but we respect what happened and we'll move forward. We always do."

Dougherty said his attorneys did more than cast doubt about Massa's testimony to the jury. "They told the truth," he said when leaving court earlier this week.

In closing arguments, Greg Pagano, an attorney representing Dougherty, told jurors the union leader was always advancing the cause of Local 98.


John Dougherty reacts to guilty verdict in federal embezzlement trial 02:41

Mark Kasten, Burrows's attorney, said, "They moved off the board a powerful union that worked for people and if you think the 4,700 members of Local 98 are better today than they were before, you're fooling yourself."

Pagano said he believed the jury got it wrong about Dougherty.

"We don't think John had criminal intent to commit any of these offenses," Pagano said.

Dougherty was already convicted in 2021 at a separate trial on bribery counts. A jury found he used his power to corruptly influence official action taken by a city council member named Bobby Henon. Henon was sentenced for his role and is currently in prison serving his sentence.

The trial is the second of three for Local 98's former powerbroker. It comes seven years after FBI agents fanned out across the city on a warm August day carrying out raids at Dougherty's South Philadelphia home, his businesses and a union hall in Spring Garden.

Dougherty is quick to tell reporters about the union's vast amount of growth in the time he took over as its business manager. He said annual hours ballooned from two to 4.5 million. Dougherty alleges he was targeted by the federal government for the union's "out-front" image projected through the scope of work Local 98 was amassing.

In the government's 2021 trial, a jury concluded Dougherty was able to exert pressure and influence over city officials and business leaders to secure work for Local 98.

Attorneys for Dougherty and Burrows say they will now research the case with plans to appeal.  

John Dougherty verdict: Former Philadelphia labor leader found guilty in federal embezzlement trial 23:05
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