Johnny Doc corruption charges

Guilty of conspiracy: What happened in the federal bribery trial of Johnny Doc and Bobby Henon

A jury had to decide if the arrangements between the men were a “corrupt agreement’ or “lawful lobbying.”

John Dougherty, center right, walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021

John Dougherty, center right, walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021

Matt Rourke / AP Photo
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A jury has returned guilty verdicts for City Councilmember Bobby Henon and labor leader John Dougherty, widely known as “Johnny Doc,” on the major count of conspiracy.

Each man was also found guilty of some of the other charges of wire and mail fraud related to calls, emails, and payments between them. Henon faced additional charges related to campaign contributions from a separate union, and one charge related to window glass installed at the home of the councilmember’s chief of staff.

All told, Dougherty was found guilty of 8 of 11 charges levied against him, and Henon was found guilty of at least 9 of 18 charges. (The Inquirer has a complete charge-by-charge breakdown here.)

The most serious of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Henon’s sentencing has been set for Feb. 22, according to 6ABC, and Dougherty’s is to take place the following day, Feb. 23. When sentenced, Henon will be forced to give up not only his seat on City Council, WHYY reports, but also his government pension.

It’s unclear whether either of the men will immediately lose their positions, as they could appeal the verdicts and try to hold onto their jobs in the meantime.

Prosecutors wanted to have Dougherty held without bail because of his history of physically threatening people, but his lawyers successfully argued that he’s not a danger to the community.

How it started

The trial was one of the most high profile court cases Philly has seen in years. The verdicts and their aftermath are likely to affect the future of city politics, government, and labor for decades to come.

Dougherty and Henon were named in the 116-count indictment in 2019. It was then split into two trials, the first of which focused on the relationship between the two men. After being repeatedly postponed, the trial under Judge Jeffrey Schmehl finally began Oct. 4, more than two and a half years after the original indictment. Arguments continued for six weeks — with 53 witnesses called and dozens of phone calls, texts, and emails presented — before wrapping in early November.

It’s public knowledge the councilmember and union chief were close friends, but prosecutors alleged they had a “corrupt agreement” that allowed Doc to get his political way via Henon’s $70,000 union salary, which the elected official continues to collect alongside his $139,000 municipal pay.

From the beginning, Dougherty and Henon denied all allegations, arguing the actions in question amounted to little more than “normal and lawful lobbying of a City Council member.”

Read on for a recap of what happened during the trial.

Who is John ‘Johnny Doc’ Dougherty?

Dougherty grew up in South Philadelphia and graduated from St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle University. Now 61, he’s the longtime business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 98.

In 2015, he was elected leader of the entire Philadelphia Building & Construction Trades Council, an umbrella group of about 50 local unions. Under his direction, it became one of the biggest sources of campaign financing in Pennsylvania. It raises money for political action committees that have backed Mayor Jim Kenney and Gov. Tom Wolf, among other elected officials — including Doc’s brother Kevin Dougherty, a judge on the Pa. Supreme Court.

All this has led to Dougherty being called the most powerful man in Philadelphia — and landing in the crosshairs of law enforcement officials. He was famously seen in a 76ers hat when the FBI raided his home and offices in 2016.

John Dougherty speaks to reporters during an FBI raid of his properties in 2016

John Dougherty speaks to reporters during an FBI raid of his properties in 2016

Charles Fox / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Who is Bobby Henon?

Henon, born and raised in Northeast Philly, worked for IBEW Local 98 as an electrician and rose to be the union’s political director. Now 52, he was elected to City Council in 2011 to represent the Northeast’s District 6.

As councilmember, Henon was a backer of Mayor Kenney’s soda tax, and took the role of chair of the Committee on Licenses and Inspections to address unsafe working conditions for laborers. He was Council’s Democratic majority leader before colleagues stripped him of that title when the latest FBI indictment came down.

Councilmember Bobby Henon, left, accompanied by his attorney Brian McMonagle, walk to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021

Councilmember Bobby Henon, left, accompanied by his attorney Brian McMonagle, walk to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

What exactly were they accused of?

The trial pivoted around the FBI’s 16-month wiretap of Dougherty’s phone conversations in 2015 and 2016, which prosecutors said showed action taken by Henon on various legislation or agreements was done at Doc’s bidding because of the $70k union salary.

The defense maintained Henon was just doing his job as a representative of constituents, many of whom themselves are labor workers. Said defense attorney Henry Hockmeimer Jr., in cross examination of one of the calls, “Nowhere in here is Mr. Dougherty telling Mr. Henon what to do.”

Here are some of the major examples presented by the prosecution.

Interfering with MRI installation and strong-arming L&I

Local 98 learned a $5.3 million MRI machine was being installed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia by nonunion members. After learning about the nonunion work through a Dougherty complaint, Henon triggered a “stop work” order through the Department of Licenses & Inspections.

The defense said Henon was simply trying to stop potentially unsafe work. The city inspector who investigated the installation testified at trial he found no issues, but was ordered to shut the project down. Eventually about $9 million in installation work was shifted to a union firm.

Prosecutors said this is just one example of Dougherty using Henon to get what he wanted out of building inspectors. Former L&I head Carlton Williams testified Doc once threatened him during a meeting in Henon’s office, saying he could have the commissioner fired.

Pushing through the soda tax

Prosecutors asserted Henon’s help paving the way for the city’s once-controversial tax on sugary beverages was part of Dougherty’s political revenge plot against the rival Teamsters union, as passing the levy could potentially cost beverage truck drivers thousands of jobs.

In a text to Dougherty that was brought up at trial, Henon wrote: “I just saw the Carpenters and Teamsters commercial with you in it… I’m going to fuck them big time, just so you know. … I will be smart about it, but there will be consequences.”

Trying to retaliate against tow companies

After Dougherty had his double-parked car in Pennsport towed by the George Smith Towing company, he tried to get Henon to hold hearings about tow companies in Philadelphia.

“There will be a bill in Council next week, to fuck George Smith and [towing company] Lew Blum,” Dougherty said in a taped phone call in November 2015. A former member of Henon’s staff testified that he was instructed to draft the hearing legislation. But the hearing never happened, defense attorneys pointed out.

Holding back Comcast franchise renewal

In 2015, Comcast’s permission to operate cable TV in the city was up for renewal for another 15 years. Prosecutors said Dougherty told Henon to quash the legislation that would allow it unless the company agreed to hire union electricians. Specifically, the government says, Doc wanted union company MJK Electrical to be hired at a higher rate than nonunion laborers were being paid. Henon then talked with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts about walking away from the bill if a labor agreement couldn’t be met.

The defense claimed Henon was acting legitimately, acting in the best interests of his constituents who are in construction unions and people living in the 6th District.

Doling out $20k in sports tickets

In addition to giving Henon a union salary for what they call a no-show job, prosecutors alleged Dougherty bribed Henon with over $19,000 worth of tickets to sports games. Henon did not disclose the tickets as gifts, as elected officials are usually required to do.

When Councilmember Helen Gym asked Henon how to file tickets to an Eagles game she was going to attend with Henon and other city officials, Henon told her not to report them, saying, “With Local 98 it’s a little different…There’s no trail of anything.” Henon’s lawyer countered that the advice to Gym could be a city ethics violation — but not a federal crime.

Johnny 'Doc' Dougherty walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021

Johnny 'Doc' Dougherty walks to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Who else was named during the trial?

When you’re as powerful within Philadelphia’s inner workings as Dougherty and Henon have been, it was almost inevitable that other well-known names of the city officials would pop up during the trial.

Mayor Kenney was heard on some of the wiretaps, and Doc refers to him often, calling him “Jimmy.” Former Mayor Michael Nutter’s name also came up, regarding the Comcast agreement, which he was trying to get approved before his term came to a close at the end of 2015. Council President Darrell Clarke can be heard in one call, talking to Henon about the PPA.

Richard Lazer, deputy mayor for labor in the Kenney administration, testified at trial about getting Dougherty the refund for the towing incident. In 2015, Lazer was working as Kenney’s campaign director and being paid $4,000 a month as a consultant for Dougherty’s union. The defense argued it wasn’t unusual for Dougherty to speak to Lazer.

Courtney Voss, Henon’s chief of staff who was having an affair with Henon, testified at trial that their romantic involvement had no bearing on decisions she made as a city employee. One of the charges also alleges Henon helped quash a potential PPA audit in exchange for new windows on Voss’ Pennypack home. Prosecutors originally included Dougherty in this alleged scheme, but the judge removed the union leader from that charge mid-trial.

This was the first of two trials facing Dougherty stemming from the initial 2019 indictment.

In the second, which focuses on alleged embezzlement, six other Local 98 members will face charges alongside Dougherty related to misuse of union funds. Prosecutors assert Doc and friends used more than $600,000 of IBEW money for personal accoutrements or their own political gain.

Dougherty also faces a third trial on new extortion charges brought in early 2021, when the FBI sent a dozen agents with a battering ram and long guns to arrest his nephew.

 

Want some more? Explore other Johnny Doc corruption charges stories.

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