THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
October 12, 2001
NEW YORK (AP) -- Former Teamsters president Ron Carey was acquitted Friday of charges he lied about the illegal diversion of union funds to his 1996 re-election campaign.
“I'm so delighted,” Carey said outside federal court. Carey, 64, had been charged with perjury and other offenses for allegedly lying when he told investigators he did not know about the scheme. He could have gotten up to five years in prison on each of seven counts.
Prosecutors said the 1.4-million-member union illegally funneled $885,000 to political action groups, which in turn arranged donations to the Carey campaign from wealthy individuals. Carey's 1996 victory over James P. Hoffa was thrown out after the plot was discovered. Hoffa was elected in a new election in 1999.
“We are disappointed but we respect the jury's verdict,” said Herb Haddad, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.
After the verdict was announced, Carey hugged his three crying daughters.
“We are relieved at the result because when the U.S. government comes at you with guns blazing, a lot can happen,” defense attorney Reid Weingarten said. Defense lawyers had portrayed Carey as a reformer who cut his own salary and eliminated perks such as private jets and limousines when he took over the presidency of the nation's largest union in 1992.
Juror Maria Figueroa, a retired phone company manager, said the jury concluded that a Carey aide lied when she testified that the union boss knew about the scheme. "I felt sorry for him. I actually believed he was a good guy trying to carry out good things for the Teamsters,” she said.
Lawyers for Carey said it was ironic that prosecutors had so zealously pursued charges against a man they said only wanted to clean up a once mob-plagued union. Over objections from the prosecution, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Carter let the jury hear about Carey's cost-cutting at the union.
Also, government witness Jere Nash, Carey's 1996 campaign manager, praised Carey as a reformer after testifying that Carey knew about the fund-raising plot.
“What always impressed me about Mr. Carey is that he wanted to use the resources of the union to benefit the members,” Nash said. He added that Carey's reputation as a reformer was “more than a political slogan.”
Hoffa's father, Jimmy Hoffa, was president of the Teamsters from 1957 to 1971. He vanished in 1975 and is presumed dead.
Carey said he may someday return to the labor movement.
“It's been in my blood for 40 years,” he said. “I need to really think about that. Obviously, I would want to sit back and shake off what has been a tragic part of my life.”