The Perfidy of the Federal Justice System: Extorting Guilty Pleas from Teamsters

(`) Joe BltzI was in federal court in Boston speaking with a well-known and highly respected defense counsel. He said to me: “this is a dangerous place to be.”  He, better than most, knew how treacherous it is when it gets you in its grasp.

I was thinking of that conversation when I read about the Teamster guy who just pleaded guilty. It was 62-year-old Mark Harrington the secretary-treasurer of the union. Harrington said at the time of his plea that he did not think what he did was a violation of the law. He said he changed his plea reluctantly so as not to go to prison.

He was indicted for extortion. It is alleged that he told the Top Chef company producing a show that if they did not hire Teamster workers they would picket them. When the company began filming in Milton some of the pickets “chest-bumped and stomach-bumped” crew members of the company; they used racial slurs, homophobic slurs and profanities. They blocked cars. Some tires were slashed and Teamsters were seen standing near the cars. They were charged with conspiracy to extort and attempted extortion in order to obtain wages for Teamsters. The punishment for such crime is imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Once indicted a person is facing a daunting task as indicated by the attorney I spoke with. That involves much expense for counsel and the expectation that your crime was considered serious enough to be brought to federal court. You would think that you might be facing some prison time.

Yet Harrington is not facing prison time. His lawyer worked out a deal for him to avoid it. If the case was on the level how can that be? It seems like a game is being played. You would think if the Boston U.S. attorney’s office was serious it would not be indicting people for major felonies and letting them escape doing time in prison.

Harrington’s lawyer got this deal for him: he is to be on probation for two years. Tell me whether you thought the reason for having a probation was to allow the prosecutors to get guilty pleas. What good is accomplished putting a 62-year-old guy on probation? Sort of a waste of time. Just like with Bob Fitpatrick the 70 something FBI agent.

Having pled guilty to a felony of attempted extortion.  The judge in the case oblivious to the horrors of being in the court opined in a cavalier manner: “You have to pay a price for being involved.” What does that mean? The judge added that it was a fair price. It seems the last people that get it in the federal court are the judges.

How is it a fair price for a guy who has worked his way up to the top position in the union, pickets a company because as he said he was trying to get his members jobs and he has to relinquish his position by pleading guilty to a crime he did not know he committed? In reporting on the case one Globe reporter falsely accused the Teamsters of “roughing up production crew members.” and “using strong armed tactics to extort jobs” again showing the Globe cheer leading the prosecutors.

Harrington can no longer hold the position in the Teamsters. He said:What I love to do I can no longer do. That’s a sentence I have to live with for the rest of my life.” He didn’t have to. He could have not pleaded guilty. Harrington as secretary-treasurer was the boss of these Teamsters. There are four other guys under him who still remain indicted. How can they face the threat of prison while the boss goes free?

I know Harrington faced a tough choice but it is hard not to see that Harrington, the leader, let his men down having brought them to the picket line and then is abandoning them to their fate. What about the idea that the captain go down with the ship? Shouldn’t Harrington have to be Teamster-strong and protect his guys? ***

The whole federal case was wrong. Picketing always involves some form of trying to get another to do something the person would not want to do. You think you deserve more pay. The employer doesn’t want to give it to you. You picket. You are attempting to force him into giving you what you want.

I thought that was resolved back in 1842 in the case of Commonwealth v. Hunt. Are we now in the age where that is a crime? Do picketers face a potential twenty year felony if during the picketing some profanities are yelled out and someone gets bumped.

It seemed from the beginning it was a political case. If there is any extortion it is the prosecutor extorted a guilty plea from a guy by trading the street for prison. Isn’t that some type of racketeering? How is that justice?

*** I should add I was not in Harrington’s place and do not know all the circumstances so accept my criticism with that understanding .  There is another way to look at it. By taking the probation deal Harrington might have put a cap on what the other guys could face if they are convicted and cleverly tied the prosecutor’s hands. .

10 thoughts on “The Perfidy of the Federal Justice System: Extorting Guilty Pleas from Teamsters

  1. read this book about FBI informant serial
    killer Tony Frankos who wacked Hoffa
    while locked up in prison.

    Hoffa was ready to talk about JFK murder.

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  2. No sympathy for Fitzgerald. Being a union member or leader in no way exempts one from the law. The way you tut-tut batteries upon persons by over-sized thugs displays a lack of a moral compass when in comes to criminal behavior under the the guise union action.

    As a kid in West Lynn I observed striking communists at a GE plant parking lot on Federal Street pull managers out of their cars, upturn and burn the vehicles while “roughing them”, which you think is OK. The memory is still with me. It was not OK.

    During one of Kerry’s Senate races I saw Shamie supporters assaulted outside Faneuil Hall. But it was OK because the Kerry boyos were from the Teamsters. The state and local authorities in both incidents did nothing.

    Violent economic or political intimidation should not be shrugged off, as you do, as just the way unions operate. It should not be given a Get Out Of Jail Free card. Membership in a union should not be treated as belonging to a legal mafia. Assault, battery, and extortion are crimes. Too often local authorities cower when unions engage in them.

    ” In March 1842, Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw ruled that labor combinations were legal provided that they were organized for a legal purpose and used legal means to achieve their goals,” from Wikipedia. In citing the case you left out “used legal means” from your analysis. Extortion and attendant other crimes are not legal means. The distinction “legal” is vital.

    This much I concede to you. The plea deal stinks. Fitzgerald belongs behind bars. He deserves no tears. The Feds would never have become involved if the Norfolk County DA and his minions fulfilled the oath of their office and enforced the law.

    It is a shame that the political climate in Massachusetts is so fetid and craven that what should have been a low level criminal charge had to be elevated to a federal court for Justice to prevail. One hopes that his cohorts do not get off so easily.


      “Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842) was a landmark legal decision issued by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on the subject of labor unions. Prior to Hunt the legality of labor combinations in America was uncertain. In March 1842, Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw ruled that labor combinations were legal provided that they were organized for a legal purpose and used legal means to achieve their goals.”

      It appears to me that destruction of property (slashing of tires, clearly demonstrating possession of a weapon capable of inflicting a lethal wound) and unlawful contact with the implied threat of violence are not “legal means to achieve their goals”.

      Would anyone consider “bumping” as an acceptable means of persuasion?

      How would your wife consider it if you “bumped” her to compel her to do something she would not do readily?

  3. I remember reading about this case in the Globe, (regrettably I dont have insider status at the federal courthouse, but I am working on it), and the Globe articles made it seem this was not only union involvement , but “organized crime”. This is an easy angle because the of the historical relations between unions and the mob, in particular the “Teamsters”. The real crime, which is perpetrated by the Feds, is the movie and TV work going to Canada because of NAFTA. The bottom line is if “the Man” wants you he is going to get you, unless your pockets are real, real deep.

    1. Daniel:

      Union movements, especially the Teamsters, have always had a tainted association with one evil group or another whether it was true or not. In the late 1800s they were supposedly backed by the anarchists; in the early 1900s by the communists; and as time passed by organized crime. It was a clever way to beat back legitimate demands by workers. The Teamsters with Jimmy Hoffa and his wars with Bobby Kennedy were especially hard hit with that association which may or may not have been correct.

      I used to represent a Teamsters Local 122. A lot of the drivers in that union were former inmates who had served time so they were tough guys. The union when it was under Ralph Gilman played hardball but it was not connected with any organized crime. It was noted that it hired guys who had been in trouble but those guys were hard working and did the job they were supposed to do. I always thought it was a good idea to hire guys who had done their time, had turned their lives around, and were willing to work for a decent day’s pay. Since so many other occupations were closed to them that they had one avenue to go to remain legit. It was good for society.

  4. Hello Matt, Apparently there are several forms of picketing, one by Union Members, which is deemed criminal. The other form of picketing is by the Black Lives Matter Group that shut down Route 3 for hours and all seemed to have walked. As you point out, how is that justice? Do you think it is to late for Fitzpatrick to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial?

    1. JR:

      Part of Fitzpatrick’s plea was because he apparently is ill and the pending case was not helping his health. I think his main concern now is to put it behind him and to show up at the probation department and tell them he is not getting into any further trouble by contradicting Wyshak’s view of the world. I picked up a book by a guy who met R who once lived on the third floor right at 375 down in the islands. He has a few pages on him which you might be interested in reading. I gave it to the guy up in New Hampshire on the lake; he’s going to pass it on to the Newton brothers and I asked them to make sure that you get it.

      Happy New Year.

    2. Wow, what about those Anti-Abortion picketers? Forgot to mention them. Don’t know about route 3 but BLM has legitimate concerns but must stay within the law.

      A potential 20 year sentence for this is nonsense?! Out-goddam-rageous. This is just a way to make ALL US citizens guilty of something. It’s a form of control.

      The Feds are in league with Putin’s SVR. How would ANY jury believe an FBI agent after they interfered with this past election? I am sure Comey is happy Putin’s Bitch is now going to 1600 Penn Avenue.

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