Jury Finds 13 Roofers Guilty in Racketeering Case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A federal jury convicted a Roofers Union boss and 12 associates Monday of conspiring to bribe judges and embezzle union funds in a case that touched off scandal in the city’s courts.
The jury returned the verdicts after 36 hours of deliberations that began Tuesday in one of the biggest labor racketeering cases in Philadelphia.
Stephen Traitz Jr., business manager of Roofers Union Local 30-30B, and the 12 others were convicted of racketeering conspiracy. He and 10 others also were convicted of racketeering.
Traitz, 50, of Trooper, also was found guilty of bribing public officials, embezzling union money and collecting debts for organized crime through extortion.
He was accused of paying bribes for official favors to more than 50 public officials, including some 15 city judges, most now under suspension for taking cash gifts of about $300.
Former Municipal Court Judge Mario Driggs has been convicted as a result of the probe. Another judge, Esther Sylvester of Common Pleas Court, was acquitted.
Two judges await trial and others are being considered for removal from the bench by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Earlier in the day, Attorney General LeRoy S. Zimmerman announced that a state grand jury recommended bringing racketeering charges against 11 of the federal defendants and five associates.
On Monday, the defendants included Traitz’s sons Stephen III, 28, and Joseph, 27, and son-in-law Richard Schoenberger, 31, all union organizers. The jury returned acquittals on seven of 58 counts.
″We are very satisfied with the verdict,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Scheff, who was chief prosecutor. ″It shows that a jury can look at the evidence, sort out all the sympathy and emotion and reach a fair and just verdict.″
Scheff said Traitz could receive up to about 180 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
U.S. District Judge Marvin Katz scheduled sentencing for Jan. 8 and allowed 12 defendants to remain free on bail. Only Traitz’s son Joseph is in jail, for violating bail conditions.
Traitz’s attorney, Ronald Kidd, said the defendants would appeal.
The Roofers have contended the charges represented efforts to break the union.
The jury heard about five weeks of testimony, including about 270 tapes secretly recorded by the FBI in 1985 and 1986 at Traitz’s office. About 60 witnesses testified for the prosecution and about 400 for the defense.
Most of the defense witnesses were union members who testified in groups that Traitz was dedicated to Local 30-30B and often made charitable gifts. None of the defendants took the stand.
″Our system of justice is in danger when people can be convicted of guilt by association on fraudulent charges,″ said one of the defense attorneys, Dennis Eisman. ″First they will bust this union, and then go after other unions.″
Local 30-30B claims 2,000 members in the Philadelphia area, southern New Jersey and Delaware.