Two former Teamsters union members were convicted Wednesday in US District Court in Boston of racketeering — for using violence and threats of violence to win jobs and elections for union office.
Joseph Burhoe, 46, a former Teamsters member with a criminal history, and John Perry, 62, the former head of a local chapter, were convicted of multiple charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, conspiracy to extort businesses, and extortion. Both will be sentenced in late February.
Another defendant, Thomas Flaherty, 50, was acquitted of all counts, and defendant James Deamicis, 51, was acquitted of some counts. The jury was hung on other counts related to Deamicis, and US District Judge Denise Casper declared a mistrial on those counts.
US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office had asserted during the weeks-long trial that the four defendants hijacked a local Teamsters chapter for their own gain, and that they threatened fellow members to make sure Perry was elected and stayed in control. They then allegedly directed jobs to Perry’s supporters.
The four defendants were also accused of intimidating business owners with threats of disruptive protests to earn union jobs. Their union chapter focused on running trade shows, at the Hynes Convention Center, for instance, and would allegedly threaten to “shut down” any event that hired nonunion workers. Some of the victims were nonprofit organizations, such as Massachusetts General Hospital and the United States Green Building Council.
“Today’s verdict reconfirms our commitment to protecting those doing business in Boston from unions’ extortionate demands for personal payoffs or other illegitimate labor objectives,” said US Attorney Carmen Ortiz. “We will also protect union members’ rights to democratic participation in the affairs of their union, including the right to vote on contracts that effect their livelihood, their right to file grievances, and their right to appear in court as a witness, without fear of intimidation or physical assault by union officials.”
The case was investigated by the US Department of Labor.
Defense attorneys argued that the allegations that the defendants intimidated other union members to win office were nothing more than union politics, not a federal crime. They also argued that the defendants were exercising their union-protected rights to protest businesses.
At the time, the defendants were members of Teamsters Local 82, which was disbanded in 2011 by the national Teamsters Union and merged into Teamsters Local 25 of Charlestown, based on a previous investigation into the allegations.
The trial, involving complex labor laws, lasted more than seven weeks, and the jury deliberated for more than six days and had 13 questions before rendering a verdict.
Miriam Conrad, an attorney for Burhoe, said in a statement that, “We are disappointed in the verdicts. It was a lengthy and complicated trial, presenting novel legal issues. We plan to appeal the convictions.”
Perry’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Thomas J. Iovieno and Edward J. Lee, attorneys for Deamicis and Flaherty, respectively, said they were relieved by the verdicts but disappointed by the convictions of Burhoe and Perry.
Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com.