Labor leader accused of assault; Philly DA should do his job

    Electicians union leader John Dougherty speaks with reporters in 2015. A non-union electrical contractor says  Dougherty punched him in the face in a South Philadelphia street confrontation

    Electicians union leader John Dougherty speaks with reporters in 2015. A non-union electrical contractor says Dougherty punched him in the face in a South Philadelphia street confrontation

    A non-union electrical contractor says Philly electricians’ union leader John Dougherty punched him in the face in a South Philadelphia street confrontation, the Inquirer reports.

    Many things are striking about this story.

    Dougherty, the city’s most politically influential labor leader, has spent years burnishing his image as a responsible public figure.

    It’s remarkable he’d put himself in a situation where a heated confrontation like this would occur.

    According to the Inquirer, a spokesman admitted Dougherty hit the contractor, but said he did so in self-defense after the contractor threatened Dougherty’s family and threw a punch at him.

    The contractor’s version is different. According to the paper, Joshua Keesee said Dougherty approached him with three other men, and, after a verbal exchange, Dougherty threw “a left-and-right combo” at him. After that, Keesee told the paper, he swung and connected with the head of one of the men with Dougherty.

    The paper reported that Keesee’s lawyer said police detectives told him they’d urged the city district attorney’s office to arrest Dougherty and his associates and charge them with aggravated assault.But District Attorney Seth Williams has declined to handle the case, instead referring it to the state attorney general’s office.

    Cameron Kline, a spokesman for Williams, emailed me that “the district attorney works to ensure that the investigatory process is fair for all citizens. He has a longstanding professional relationship with Mr. Dougherty that required him to refer the matter to another agency.”

    Curious.

    When Williams charged three Philadelphia lawmakers he knew in a political corruption case last year, he said, “There are no free passes when it comes to corruption. I will not and cannot look the other way just because you are my friend or a member of my political party or my race.”

    Well said.

    I don’t know exactly why we elect our county prosecutors, but if developing political relationships and accepting campaign contributions mean you can’t do your duty, you should avoid those relationships.

    I don’t know what happened out there on the street, but Williams should assign the case to a couple of veteran prosecutors and tell them to go where the law and the facts lead them.

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