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Labor leader found not guilty in assault case

By Globe Staff 

A jury deliberated less than 20 minutes Wednesday before rendering a not-guilty verdict in an assault case against a high-ranking labor leader who also serves on the Boston Planning & Development Agency board.

The swift verdict vindicated the labor leader, Michael P. Monahan, who had been accused of threatening a fellow union member with a baseball bat. The only evidence presented by prosecutors in the one-day trial was testimony from the alleged victim, Michael Baker, whom the defense has suggested was working at the behest of federal investigators.

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After the verdict, Monahan’s attorney, George C. McMahon, said the charges and trial in Dorchester District Court were an attempt to force his client to testify before a federal grand jury.

“This prosecution was inexorably tied to the federal investigation involving the labor movement and the mayor of Boston,” McMahon said after the verdict. “They were trying to apply pressure to Mr. Monahan so he might be compelled to testify before the grand jury.”

The spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, Jake Wark, rejected that assertion, characterizing it as “wild claims without any foundation in reality.” The US Department of Justice declined to comment.

The Globe reported in November that Monahan and other leaders appeared under protection of immunity before a federal grand jury. Defense documents revealed that a secret wiretap in 2012 recorded at least three conversations involving Martin J. Walsh, at the time the head of the Boston Building Trades and a state representative.

Walsh was elected mayor of Boston a year later. He has strongly denied wrongdoing, and has guaranteed he will not be indicted. Walsh’s spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday for this story.

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Wark defended the decision by the Suffolk district attorney’s office to bring Monahan’s assault case to trial, saying in an e-mail that “a crime is no less a crime because the victim is the only one who sees it.”

“We believed the trial testimony would support a conviction,” Wark said. “The jury chose to see it a different way.”

Baker, the alleged victim, could not be reached for comment after the verdict. He told a reporter before the trial that he had been working with agents from the Department of Labor but would not comment when asked about the FBI and the federal grand jury probe.

In his testimony, Baker acknowledged distributing documents from Monahan’s divorce to union members. The defense painted Baker as a rival of Monahan in union politics, a characterization Baker rejected.

Baker testified that in January 2016, Monahan raised a baseball bat above Baker’s head and threatened to kill him. That accusation was disputed in testimony from Monahan and two other officials from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, where the assault was alleged to have occurred.

Monahan described being relieved by the not-guilty verdict but was frustrated the case made it as far as it did.

“The integrity of my family is very important to me,” Monahan said. “We have a long lineage of representing workers and members of Local 103. We do not do what I was accused doing.”


Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.