By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
October 13, 2001
Ron Carey, the former president of the Teamsters union, was found not guilty yesterday on federal perjury charges after a four-week trial in Manhattan.
After three days of deliberations, the jury cleared Mr. Carey of charges that he had lied 63 times to federal officials and a grand jury investigating improper fund-raising in his 1996 re-election campaign.
Mr. Carey used the trial to try to show that he had done no wrong even though a federal oversight board expelled him from the union in 1998 for having failed to stop the fund-raising scheme.
Federal prosecutors had charged Mr. Carey with lying when he told investigators that he knew nothing about an arrangement by his top campaign aides to contribute $885,000 to various liberal organizations. In exchange, donors to those groups gave more than $100,000 to his 1996 campaign.
Under federal law, it is illegal to use money from a union treasury to support a candidate for union office.
Mr. Carey, who led the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1991 to 1998, narrowly defeated James P. Hoffa in 1996. But federal overseers threw out that result and expelled Mr. Carey, setting up an election that Mr. Hoffa won.
Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Mr. Carey, said: "We're delighted with the verdict, but we're not surprised. We had every confidence that Ron Carey would ultimately be vindicated. This is the first opportunity for him to present his story, and the jury accepted it."
The jury cleared Mr. Carey on all seven counts. He had faced up to 35 years in prison.
Herb Hadad, a spokesman for the United States attorney in New York, said, "We are disappointed, but we respect the jury's verdict."
On the surface, the acquittal conflicted with the oversight board's decision to oust Mr. Carey. When that board expelled him, it never found that he took part in the scheme, instead finding that he had breached his fiduciary duties to the 1.4 million members of the union by not stopping it. Similarly, the indictment announced last January never charged Mr. Carey, 64, who lives in Queens, with participating in the scheme.
The trial on the perjury charges began on Aug. 27 but was suspended for two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center disrupted proceedings at courthouses downtown. The trial, overseen by Judge Robert L. Carter, resumed on Sept. 24 without a mistrial because all the jurors returned.
The main witness against Mr. Carey was his former campaign manager, Jere Nash, who testified that Mr. Carey had approved the fund-raising scheme.
Mr. Nash said Mr. Carey at first rejected a $225,000 Teamsters contribution to a liberal group, Citizen Action, which was to use the money in a get-out-the-vote effort. But Mr. Nash testified that Mr. Carey later approved the donation after Mr. Nash told him that contributing the money to Citizen Action would help raise money for his campaign.
Mark Hulkower, another lawyer for Mr. Carey, repeatedly challenged Mr. Nash's credibility, noting that he had already been convicted of campaign fraud. Mr. Hulkower also argued that Mr. Nash's testimony was fueled by a desire for a more lenient sentence. Mr. Nash faces up to 20 years in prison and a $2 million fine.
Aside from Mr. Nash, two other top Carey campaign aides have pleaded guilty to engineering the campaign scheme, while last year the Teamsters' former political director was found guilty of participating in the scheme.
Throughout the trial, Mr. Carey's lawyers sought to portray him as an anticorruption crusader who would never have perjured himself or approved a fraudulent scheme. To help show Mr. Carey's integrity, Mr. Hulkower got Mr. Nash to acknowledge on cross-examination that Mr. Carey had saved the union $11 million by selling the union's two jets and had saved another $75,000 by cutting his salary by a third.
In 1991, Mr. Carey became the first democratically elected head of the Teamsters, vowing to end mob control of the union and to use the union's money to help members rather than the union's leaders.
The indictment charged Mr. Carey with lying to the grand jury, to the federal official who oversees Teamsters elections and to the Independent Review Board, a three-member oversight board that investigates corruption in the Teamsters and has the power to expel union members.
In 1989, the Teamsters agreed to a far-reaching program of federal supervision, and in exchange, the government dropped a civil racketeering suit that asserted that the Mafia controlled the union.
The indictment charged Mr. Carey with lying when he told the election officer that no aides had told him of plans to divert Teamster money to help generate donations for his campaign.
"If they did, obviously, I would have stopped that dead in its tracks," Mr. Carey told the election officer.
The indictment implicated Richard L. Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s secretary-treasurer, by accusing Mr. Carey of lying when he denied having conversations with Mr. Nash about getting Mr. Trumka to help raise money. The indictment said a Carey campaign consultant had asked Mr. Trumka to help arrange for the labor federation to donate $150,000 to Citizen Action if the Teamsters made an unusual $150,000 payment to the A.F.L.-C.I.O.
Mr. Trumka has repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment before investigators but has privately insisted that he is not guilty. Many Republicans have criticized prosecutors for not indicting Mr. Trumka, noting that the statute of limitations on his actions runs out on Nov. 1.