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It’s been almost five months since former Councilmember Bobby Henon and former labor leader John Dougherty were convicted of conspiracy and other charges. A jury found that Henon accepted bribes, including a union salary, in exchange for giving Dougherty influence in his work as a city councilmember. The most serious charges for each man carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Sentencing was originally set for February, but it hasn’t happened, and both are currently out on bail. What gives?
Turns out Henon’s sentencing has been delayed by more than three months. And sentencing for Dougherty, widely known as “Johnny Doc,” was first moved to late April, but has now been delayed indefinitely.
Dougherty’s lawyers, led by Henry Hockeimer of Ballard Spahr, asked for the delay, pointing to his related upcoming trial on extortion charges, set to start in May. They argued Dougherty’s sentencing hearing “will likely provoke great media attention,” and holding that hearing just before the extortion trial would make it too difficult to find an impartial jury.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey Schmehl granted that request. Contacted by Billy Penn, attorney Hockeimer declined to comment on the situation.
Henon’s sentencing, meanwhile, is on the calendar — though it has been delayed not once but twice. The first reschedule, pushing it from Feb. 22 to April 13, happened just a few days after he resigned from City Council.
Then, in an order on March 18, Schmehl postponed sentencing again, to June 2. The order does not provide a reason for the delay.
That second delay came one day after a new lawyer for Henon appeared on the federal docket — white-collar criminal defense attorney Catherine Recker, a partner at Welsh & Recker. Brian McMonagle, who represented Henon at trial and gained national recognition for his role in the Cosby case, is still also listed on the docket as one of his lawyers.
Recker and McMonagle did not respond to requests for comment.
Linda Dale Hoffa, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Dilworth Paxson, said it’s possible that Henon’s resignation allowed for his sentencing to be pushed to a later date. Hoffa is familiar with the criminal case, but was not involved in the prosecution or defense.
“Oftentimes public officials do not resign until after sentencing,” Hoffa said — unlike Henon — which can make sentencing more urgent. “They continue to receive their salary and do their job… People are concerned about that.”
Dougherty resigned his politically powerful post as business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 a day after being convicted. The two trials he still faces are also related to his leadership of the union.
The case in which Dougherty and Henon were convicted in November — Dougherty guilty on eight of the 11 counts he faced, and Henon on 10 of 18 counts — was just one part of a larger case that was bifurcated, or split in two. The fall 2021 trial was on the “corruption case,” as it is referred to in court documents. The next part, which is set for trial in October, is referred to as the “embezzlement case.”
In cases where a person is facing multiple trials, it’s common for judges to wait until all of those trials have concluded before sentencing the individual, per Hoffa.
“They look at all the circumstances and all the counts of conviction to determine what would ultimately be an appropriate and fair sentence,” she said.
In the embezzlement case, Brian Burrows, Michael Neill, Marita Crawford, Niko Rodriguez, Brian Fiocca, and Anthony Massa, along with Dougherty, have been accused of using union credit cards to pay for their personal expenses. Dougherty, Burrows, and Neill are also charged with lying to the IRS about their income, and Dougherty and Crawford are charged with using union workers to do personal tasks for them.
But before a jury hears more about those allegations, explained in a 159-page indictment filed in 2019, Dougherty and his nephew, Gregory Fiocca, will be tried on extortion and conspiracy charges for allegedly threatening a contractor in 2020. Fiocca, an electrician and member of the union, was appointed as the Local 98 steward for the contractor that employed him.
The extortion charges were filed a full two years after the initial indictment against Dougherty and Henon, in March 2021. The extortion trial had originally been scheduled for November 2021, but it was pushed off until this year.
Even without the complexities of multiple cases and numerous parties, criminal trials have been facing interruptions for the last two years because of COVID-19.
A delay in any one case has a domino effect on other hearings and trials. This is particularly true in criminal trials, which are less likely to take place via video because defendants have the right of confrontation, Hoffa said.
The start of Dougherty and Henon’s trial — the corruption case — was postponed several times, and jury deliberations were delayed by one day because a juror tested positive for COVID-19.
In a Jan. 27 order regarding the start of the embezzlement trial, Judge Schmehl attributed delays to “the COVID-19 situation in the district, the effect of the pandemic and other factors on the ability of the defense to adequately prepare for trial, the complexities of this case and the number of parties involved.” He also made note of other proceedings involving Dougherty.
Since Schmehl entered that order, the embezzlement trial has been postponed again. Late last month, the trial date was moved from Sept. 12 to Oct. 13, 2022.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declined to comment on the cases.