Philadelphia union leader ‘Johnny Doc’ pleads not guilty to bribery, theft

Union Leader John Dougherty exits federal court after he pled not guilty at his arraignment Friday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Union Leader John Dougherty exits federal court after he pled not guilty at his arraignment Friday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Powerful electricians union leader John Dougherty made his first appearance in court to answer charges of theft, embezzlement and conspiracy Friday, pleading not guilty to all counts against him.

Dougherty, who paused briefly before a media throng outside the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, expressed confidence his prospects.

“The indictment is just a charge,” he said. “That’s their case. I am very comfortable with the team of lawyers that we have. In the next few weeks, we’ll start to gather all the information the government has, and as we start to get our answers, we’ll make sure you get your answers.”

“I’m not going to stop doing my job,” he added. “You’re going to see me all over this city.”

Dougherty was released on his own recognizance. He must surrender his passport  and have only work-related contact with defendants and potential witnesses, except for conferences to plan defense strategy with attorneys for the defendants.

The indictment filed this week says he and his inner circle misspent $600,000 in union funds.

Three others charged in the 116-count indictment — union employees Marita Crawford and Niko Rodriguez, and contractor Anthony Massa —  also pleaded not guilty.

City Councilman Bobby Henon pleaded not guilty to honest services fraud in a court appearance Thursday.

The charges come more than two years after federal agents raided the home and office of Dougherty, a powerful player in state and local politics.

The political committee of Dougherty’s union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, is the biggest spending political committee in Pennsylvania, and was the largest single Philadelphia supporter of Mayor Jim Kenney’s successful 2015 run for mayor.

The union gave $450,000 to a super PAC that waged an independent advertising campaign for Kenney.


Disclosure: Local 98 represents engineers at WHYY.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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