Johnny Doc

Union Leader John Dougherty exits federal court after he pled not guilty at his arraignment Friday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Philadelphia judge is considering whether to try union boss John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty separately from some of his co-defendants, including five IBEW Local 98 employees.

Federal prosecutors say Dougherty and others embezzled more than $600,000 from IBEW Local 98, the city’s politically powerful electricians union.

Dougherty and City Councilman Bobby Henon also are facing corruption charges in connection with allegedly trading bribes.

During a short hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for Dougherty and all seven of his co-defendants told U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl there should be two trials — one for each set of charges — to remove the possibility of jurors being prejudiced by hearing allegations that don’t apply to their clients.

“There is absolutely no overlap between those two offenses,” said defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom, who is representing union president Brian Burrows. “The only overlap is Mr. Dougherty.”

Federal prosecutors argued the link to Dougherty is part of the reason why the case’s defendants should be tried together. They said all of the offenses are connected to its overarching crime: stealing union funds for “personal benefit.”

“They all involve the same thing, just different ways of doing it,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Costello.

The indictment alleges that Dougherty and his co-defendants misspent union dollars on a long list of items, including home repairs, tickets to sporting events, and a bevy of personal effects, including skin cream, deodorant, and lip balm.

Union employees Michael Neill, Marita Crawford, Niko Rodriguez, and Brian Fiocca were also indicted. Federal prosecutors have also charged contractor Anthony Massa.

William Brennan, Massa’s attorney, echoed Bergstrom’s argument after Tuesday’s hearing.

“Tony Massa is about as apolitical a guy as you could be. He has as much involvement with Bobby Henon as the man on the moon,” Brennan said.

Schmehl is expected to rule on the motion to sever in the coming weeks.

He is also weighing whether to dismiss the corruption charges filed against Dougherty, whose lawyers filed a motion to that effect in late March. In it, they argued there was nothing criminal about his relationship with Henon — that the facts simply “reveal the lawful lobbying of a City Councilmember to advance the interests of a labor union.”

Prosecutors say Henon did Dougherty’s bidding in exchange for a series of bribes, including campaign contributions and a paid union staff position he has maintained since he was elected to City Council in 2011.

In one instance, Dougherty allegedly compelled Henon to use the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to punish Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for using non-union labor to install an MRI machine.

In another, a Henon staffer drafted a resolution authorizing L&I to hold public hearings to investigate a tow company that tried to take Dougherty’s car.

Dougherty and his co-defendants are not expected to face trial until sometime in 2020. —WHYY

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