They looked into hours of tapped phone conversations. They agonized over what prosecutors called a bribery scheme, but the defense called good union representation. They felt for the families of the charged men.
But at the end of three and a half days of closed-door deliberations, jurors were not only confident in their decision to convict union leader John Dougherty and council member Bobby Henon on bribery and other charges. They also came away with an insider’s understanding of the halls of power, one told The Inquirer in an exclusive interview.
“It was a real lesson in civics in Philadelphia and how Philadelphia government works — and it was appalling,” said the juror, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from supporters. Dougherty and Henon.
After listening to five weeks of testimony in which the government alleged that Dougherty bought Henon off on an annual salary of $70,000 for doing nothing union work, the juror concluded that “there is a lot of habilitation of John Dougherty and Bobby Henon at City Hall.
» READ MORE: John Dougherty resigns as leader of IBEW Local 98 after conviction on federal charges
The 12-member federal jury of seven women and five men was selected from an area of nine counties in eastern Pennsylvania, and most lived out of town. They varied in age, race and profession – some were teachers, others had ties to the military and trade unions.
Jurors were not sequestered during the trial, although some voluntarily stayed in city hotels during the week. And they spent the final week of the trial being tested regularly for COVID-19 after a juror fell ill with the virus. Their roughly 20 hours of deliberations remained civil, the juror said, with the panel working through the charges, the alleged schemes and the mountains of evidence that government agents had spent years gathering: phone call transcripts, e- emails, text messages, pay stubs and receipts.
READ MORE: What’s next for union leader John Dougherty and City Council member Bobby Henon after being convicted of corruption
Tasked with a decision that could shake up city politics and organized labor for years to come, they worked well as a group, the juror said, despite their differing backgrounds and opinions.
“It was a very difficult case for any jury. There were so many facts,” the juror said. “All of the jury members were decent, friendly, open-minded. We were of different beliefs, in many ways, of different political views. And we were just trying to listen very carefully to what the judge charged us with and figure out the facts to the best of our abilities as a group. It’s hard.”
The juror said many panel members felt sympathy for Henon after his lawyers called character witnesses to vouch for the good he had done in his northeast Philadelphia district – from the helping homeless people, rallying to keep Hahnemann Hospital open, sponsoring events for children in the city — since being elected in 2012.
READ MORE: Defense witnesses described Bobby Henon as ‘the hardest working board member’ as his federal corruption trial continues
“It was really a testimony for him,” the juror said. “But unfortunately that wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that he gave in to John Dougherty too many times. Even when he hesitated to do it, he did it. … The jury saw the good that Bobby Henon did. But they also realized that you can be good and still break the law.
The juror added: “It was harder to have that kind of sympathy for John Dougherty.”
Dozens of phone calls played at the trial showed Dougherty being short-tempered, rude and sometimes overbearing in his discussions with others. And as they delivered the verdict on Monday before a courtroom packed with families and union supporters of Dougherty and Henon, many panel members feared a backlash once the decision was announced.
“What was important to the jury was that we didn’t let John Dougherty intimidate us,” the juror said. “That’s part of the problem.”
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The juror said the group was grateful when U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl sternly told the courtroom that any backlash or outburst at the verdict would not be tolerated. Schmehl’s tone, the juror said, “was very reassuring to the jury, because the jury was afraid of this, of the reaction.”
READ MORE: What the jury decided on each count in the John Dougherty and Bobby Henon trial
Both Dougherty and Henon were wearing face masks and sat stone-faced as the foreman announced their fate: Dougherty guilty of eight counts and Henon guilty of 10. A low “whoa” was heard in the gallery, and some of their followers began to quietly pray or hold their heads in their hands.
Regarding the case itself, the juror said the panel found the lawyers on the case “very capable”, but said the case became confusing when the lawyers quickly bounced between each of the various official actions that prosecutors said Henon took at Dougherty’s request, listening for a minute. to testify about the behind-the-scenes wrangling surrounding a Council vote on the soft drink tax, then bouncing back in upcoming calls detailing the union leader’s involvement in the renegotiation of the city’s franchise contract with Comcast in 2015.
Regarding several of the alleged schemes – including one in which Dougherty pushed Henon to lead Council inquiries into a tow truck company that towed his car and another in which he conspired to use proposed legislation to secure the vote of the Plumbers’ Union in its run for the helm of the Building and Constructions Trade Council – the evidence showed that plans were drawn up or resolutions drafted but not carried out. The juror said Henon’s failure to follow through originally divided the jury’s thinking on whether or not to convict.
READ MORE: These are the key questions jurors weighed in the John Dougherty and Bobby Henon trial
But ultimately, the juror said, the panel “felt that was enough because under the law you didn’t have to complete the act, as long as you intended to undermine the people of Philadelphia for committing honest services fraud.”
The tearful testimony of defense witness Courtney Voss — Henon’s chief of staff with whom he had a romantic relationship — helped inform the jury of the inner workings of Henon’s office, the juror said, “but I think that in the end, she was probably a little too passionate. be a neutral witness.
The juror said a number of people on the panel felt that Henon’s 2015 board hearing with Verizon was “a kind of witch trial” with other board members “piling in” the representatives of the company on the public forum, but that the cable company got involved in a labor dispute was also not “a totally innocent player in all of this.”
And from Dougherty’s phone calls with Mayor Jim Kenney, to Deputy Mayor Rich Lazer’s testimony that he helped Dougherty in a tow pinch, to a bugged call between council members Helen Gym and Henon for flagging their places free in the Local 98 box during an Eagles game, the juror called the inner workings of City Hall “dismal”.
READ MORE: Why Many Philadelphia Politicians Still Won’t Talk About Convictions of ‘Johnny Doc’ and Council Member Bobby Henon
The juror said Council members should not be allowed to take on second jobs. “There will always be a conflict of interest, even if the conflict of interest is only a matter of time,” the juror said. “I think the people of Philadelphia are too aggrieved by Council members who have other jobs.”
More than anything, however, the juror said: “[the trial] made me more aware than ever that Philadelphia politics has a lot of cleaning up to do.