PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a closely watched case. The prosecution and defense delivered opening statements Tuesday in the federal bribery and corruption trial of Philadelphia union leader John Dougherty and City Councilmember Bobby Henon.
A federal prosecutor painted the picture, alleging Dougherty was a powerful union boss who exerted influence and muscle over Henon to carry out political battles and vendettas. The defense attorneys said that’s nonsense.READ MORE: Police: Man, 2 Children Injured In Crash In Willingboro
On Tuesday morning, Dougherty headed into federal court all business.
Opening statements from federal prosecutors seized on his long-standing relationship with Henon.
Dougherty, a titan in organized labor, and Henon — labor’s main ally on City Council, according to his lawyer — are on the hook for potential jail time if convicted.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bea Witzleben told the jury in her hourlong opening: “This is a case about corruption, bribes disguised as salary and benefits.”
Laid out for the jury were nine alleged schemes prosecutors contend showed the scope of power within Local 98, where it’s claimed Dougherty paid Henon a $70,000 annual salary from Local 98 in exchange for Henon’s official action.READ MORE: Big Decision Looming For SEPTA Employees As Union Fights For Better Wages For Its Workers
Prosecutors claim Henon and Dougherty were pushing for Philadelphia’s controversial soda tax, which in 2015 was opposed by the Teamsters and Carpenters in advertisements — the prosecutor said: “Henon texted Dougherty and he saw the (soda tax) ad and he was going to ‘F’ the Teamsters and the Carpenters big time.”
Prosecutors said they intercepted hundreds of phone calls and texts between union officials, Henon, Dougherty, and the mayor.
It’s alleged Dougherty threw his weight around and used Henon to grow his power.
Hank Hockeimer, who represents Dougherty, said he was motivated to fight for the little guy, the worker.
He argued there was no bribe, telling the jury, “he is bombastic, cocky, profane. There is no off switch to this guy … He grew (Local) 98 into a powerhouse.”MORE NEWS: Flames Put Out After Tearing Through Mount Laurel Home
The trial is expected to last more than a month.