JULIE SHAW, Daily News Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-854-2592
Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2015, 3:01 AM
JAMES WALSH, one of the most notorious of the “goons” in the local Ironworkers union who committed acts of violence and sabotage at nonunion-contractor sites, told a federal jury yesterday that his actions had the approval of the union’s leadership.
They were “endorsed, and they were appreciated by the administration of the local,” Walsh, 50, testified.
That administration included Joseph Dougherty, 73, the former longtime head of Ironworkers Local 401, who is on trial on racketeering conspiracy, arson and extortion charges. The feds contend he authorized acts of violence – or “night work” – against nonunion contractors in an effort to get them to hire union members.
Dougherty’s lawyers contend he didn’t authorize the acts, and that they were ordered by the union’s business agents.
Walsh, whose white beard and hair were neat and trim yesterday, walked into court with a cane. He recently was in a motorcycle crash. Known as the union’s “hit man,” he pleaded guilty in September to racketeering conspiracy and five arson-related counts.
Among his acts of violence, Walsh in 2012 had slashed and punctured tires and assaulted workers at a nonunion construction site at 12th and Wood streets, near Center City, and used an acetylene torch to cut the metal infrastructure and anchor bolts of a new Quaker meetinghouse being built in Chestnut Hill.
While cross-examining Walsh, Fortunato Perri Jr., Dougherty’s lead attorney, contended Walsh pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the feds to get a reduced sentence on his crimes.
Walsh, who spoke slowly, said he pleaded because the evidence against him was “overwhelming.”
In another case of violence highlighted by the feds, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore called to the stand two victims of a June 2010 baseball-bat beating.
Christopher Mengel, whose dad owned Maura Buildings, which got a contract to put up the steelwork of a Toys “R” Us being built across from the King of Prussia Mall, and Luis Enrique Farias, a worker for the company, testified that the Ironworkers picketed their job site, blocking vehicles.
On the day of the assault, Farias testified, about 50 to 70 union members were picketing, so he and other workers went to park in the mall parking lot to wait for a police escort. Suddenly, a car pulled up and three guys jumped out with baseball bats and “started smashing windows,” he said.
Farias said a union guy tried to hit him with a bat. The two wrestled. Farias put the guy in a headlock, and that’s when he felt someone hitting him in the back with a baseball bat. He had bruises and felt dizzy and was treated at a hospital that day.
Mengel, the foreman on the job site, testified that he was also hit in the head with a baseball bat and was punched in the head.
Richard Ritchie, one of the 12 Ironworkers members who was federally charged in this case, has pleaded guilty to being one of the baseball-bat attackers.
Farias said after the assault, he moved back to California because he felt safer there. “We have unions over there, but they’re nothing like here,” he said.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150108_Ironworkers_member_says_union_leadership_approved_of_crimes.html#Ae8ITzK9Rigvls8y.99