Dougherty gets 19 years for racketeering, arson

 Labor activist Jim Moran addresses supporters of Joseph Dougherty outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. (Dave Davies/WHYY)

Labor activist Jim Moran addresses supporters of Joseph Dougherty outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia. (Dave Davies/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia Ironworkers Local 401 boss Joseph Dougherty was sentenced on Monday to serve 19 years in prison and pay $558,000 in restitution, six months after a federal jury found the 73-year-old guilty of a racketeering, conspiracy, multiple counts of arson and extortion.


“Hopefully, we’re done with union violence in Philadelphia,” U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson said before he imposed the sentence.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 22 years.

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Dougherty’s attorney, Mark Cedrone, said he would appeal the conviction and the sentence.

Dougherty led the local ironworkers union as it battled nonunion contractors and a faltering economy in 2008 and beyond. The FBI launched an investigation into the union’s activities after a Dec. 2012 arson attack at the site of a Quaker meetinghouse being built in Chestnut Hill.

Twelve high-level union members and officials were indicted. Eleven pleaded guilty, leaving Dougherty alone on trial.

Some of those members eventually testified against Dougherty during the trial, saying they set fire to rival sites and caused mayhem while picketing nonunion jobs.

The back story

During the trial, two counts against Dougherty involving the meetinghouse were dropped. According to reports, Baylson granted a defense motion to dismiss the counts, ruling there was not enough evidence linking Dougherty to the East Mermaid Lane arson.

The FBI also looked into union jobs dating back to 2010, examining members’ involvement in acts of arson or extortion on 25 different job sites including a Toys R Us store near the King of Prussia Mall, a Planet Fitness location in Roxborough, an Olive Garden restaurant in Montgomery County as well as a La Colombe warehouse.

FBI agents gained access to cellphone records and text messages and tapped the phones of the union’s Northeast Philadelphia headquarters, as well as the cellphones of high-level union “business agents,” who Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Livermore said were in charge of carrying out acts of intimidation or violence.

“It was a union that was run through criminal activity, that’s how it was operated,” Livermore said following the verdict. “On a weekly basis, if not a daily basis, they talked about committing crimes, committing extortion, things of that nature.”

Attorney Cedrone said that, as business manager for the local, Dougherty held an administrative job and didn’t directly supervise the members and business agents who committed crimes. “Joe Dougherty was sentenced to 19 years in jail today for basically being unable to supervise a bunch of guys who thought they were gangster,” Cedrone said.

Ironworkers who held a demonstration in support of Dougherty before the sentencing hearing condemned union violence. Ironworker Joe Mathis said Dougherty was always opposed to it.

“To quote Joe Doc, the only way to beat the non-unions is do it better than them, and that’s what we did,” Mathis said. “Work hard, or go home. That’s what Joe Doc says. He never said go burn nuthin’ down. We had some knuckleheads that did some s**t. They’re going to jail and they deserve it. But Joe Doc ain’t one of em.”

Joe Dougherty is no relation to electricians’ union leader John Dougherty.

This story includes reporting from Northwest Philadelphia editor Neema Roshania.

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