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Trial Begins To Determine If Former Philadelphia Ironworkers Union Boss Ruled With Iron Fist

By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - A federal prosecutor tells a jury the former Philadelphia Ironworkers Local 401 boss ruled with an iron fist….and extortion and violence. But the defense denies he ordered the acts of violence committed by others, some of whom are now cooperators.

Prosecutor Rob Livermore has told the jury Joe Dougherty thought he and the union owned all ironwork in the Philadelphia area, and contractors who hired non-union workers got an offer they couldn't refuse: hire union workers or else.

"Dougherty's goon squads attacked non-union workers with baseball bats, they smashed construction sites with sledgehammers, they destroyed non-union construction equipment," Livermore said.

And Livermore says a preferred tool was an acetylene torch -- cutting into the very foundations of the structures damaged.

But defense attorney Fortunato Perri Junior says secretly recorded tapes won't show Dougherty ordering the damage:

"He's not on the phone in 1,000 phone calls. He's not on the phone, threatening a contractor. He's never speaking to a contractor, threatening a contractor, threatening a non-union worker, threatening a developer."

And Perri has challenged the expected testimony of cooperating witnesses --union members who have admitted crimes and are now implicating Dougherty.

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