Attorneys Deliver Closing Arguments in Teamsters Trial
Jan. 11, 1989
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Wrapping up a 2 1/2 -month labor racketeering trial, a federal prosecutor argued Tuesday that Teamsters union President Jackie Presser and two associates embezzled $700,000 to pay ''friends or cronies'' who did no union work.
In closing arguments to jurors in U.S. District Court, prosecutor Stephen Jigger stressed the role of Presser's associates in the alleged embezzlement scheme. Presser died in July, more than two years after his indictment in the case.
Harold Friedman, a Teamsters international vice president and Ohio's most powerful Teamster, and Anthony Hughes, Teamsters Local 507 recording secretary, have been on trial since Oct. 24.
An attorney for Friedman argued that his client is a dedicated labor leader who would not participate in such a scheme.
''The defense would have you believe all this was Jackie Presser's responsibility,'' Jigger said. ''Poor, powerless Harold Friedman, living in the fear of Jackie Presser. I submit to you that the evidence in this case indicates not only what Jackie Presser did but also what Harold Friedman and Anthony Hughes did.''
The trial included testimony from 80 witnesses, many of whom were asked detailed questions about day-to-day Teamsters operations.
Pretrial documents included revelations about Presser's role as an FBI informant, saying he provided the bureau with information about the union and alleged links to organized crime.
Presser was the fourth of the last five Teamsters international presidents to be indicted; he had inherited the job from Roy Williams when Williams was sent to prison for conspiring to bribe a U.S. senator.
But his declining health caused repeated postponements of the trial, and his death from brain cancer left only Friedman and Hughes as co-defendants.
Friedman, 66, is charged with two counts of labor racketeering, two of embezzlement and two of filing false reports with the Labor Department. He is president of the Ohio Conference of Teamsters, leader of Teamsters Joint Council 41 in northeast Ohio and president of both Teamsters Local 507 and Bakery Workers Local 19 in Cleveland.
Hughes, 52, is charged with two counts of labor racketeering and one of embezzlement. The government contends Hughes was a ''ghost employee'' at Bakery Workers Local 19, which is affiliated with Teamsters Local 507 and shares an office with it.
The case will go to the jury after closing arguments are completed and U.S. District Judge George W. White issues instructions on the law.
''The evidence demonstrates abuse of union office by Harold Friedman, Anthony Hughes and Jackie Presser for the benefit of their friends and cronies in the amount of $700,000,'' Jigger said. During the trial, Friedman testified that Presser had unquestioned power at Teamsters Local 507 in Cleveland, where he served as secretary-treasurer even while he was international president.
Defense lawyer Paul Cambria, representing Friedman, said in his closing statement that Friedman puts in long hours of work for his members and that his participation in a scheme to embezzle members' money ''just doesn't make any sense.''
''I ask you not to be misled,'' Cambria said. ''You must determine whether my client was a thief. Jackie Presser is gone. Whether it had a lot to do with him or not is another story. My client is on trial, not Jackie Presser.''
Friedman said Presser hired John A. ''Jack'' Nardi Jr. and George Argie, who were portrayed by the prosecution as ''ghost employees'' who did no union work.
''Now he (Friedman) would have you believe all that power resided in a dead man and that he was a powerless subordinate,'' Jigger said. ''You can't blame Jackie Presser when it's your job, your responsibility and you knew it.''
Jigger reviewed the testimony of three of the alleged ''ghost employees'' - Allen Friedman, no relation to Harold Friedman; Argie and Nardi. Each testified he was paid and did little work, if any.
The defense contended that Nardi and Argie were hired by Presser and did whatever he wanted them to do; that Hughes worked; and that Allen Friedman often was too ill to work.
Jigger noted that Nardi was the son of a reputed organized-crime figure in Cleveland with labor union ties, that Argie was a known gambling figure and a Hughes acquaintance, and that Allen Friedman was Jackie Presser's uncle.
John R. Climaco, Presser's former attorney, has said that Presser's defense, had he lived to stand trial, would have been that the FBI authorized him to hire the ''ghost employees'' to enhance and protect his status as an FBI informant.
But government prosecutors contend Presser couldn't have been authorized to hire ''ghost employees'' because they were working as early as 1972 and Presser didn't become an FBI informant until 1977. Harold Friedman's attorney said last week that Presser was a government informant in 1963.
The prosecution called former FBI agent Robert S. Friedrick, who was Presser's contact at the agency, but he was jailed for contempt of court after refusing to testify.