Feds defy judge's order to add more prosecutors to Ironworkers case

Posted: March 21, 2014

WILL IT BE A showdown between the U.S. Attorney's Office and a federal judge?

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson has ordered an April 3 hearing for federal prosecutors to explain why they have defied his recent order for them to assign two more prosecutors to the complex racketeering-conspiracy case involving 10 members of the local Ironworkers union.

In a letter earlier this week, U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger wrote to the judge: "The government respectfully objects to this staffing directive."

Memeger added that staffing is a matter of the executive agency prosecuting the case to decide. He noted that federal appellate courts have written "that the courts are not to interfere with the free exercise of the discretionary powers of the attorneys of the United States in their control over criminal prosecutions."

Baylson, during a March 13 pre-trial conference in the Ironworkers case, told Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore that it was "not acceptable" for the government to just have one prosecutor assigned to the case. He said he was "going to insist, require" that the U.S. Attorney's Office assign two more prosecutors, who would devote two-thirds of their time to the case.

"I can order the government to do certain things, and that's what I'm doing," Baylson told Livermore, adding: "It's not humanly possible for you to do all this by yourself. It's just not."

Baylson noted that the case involves 1,000 pertinent telephone calls, more than 100 text messages and 163 boxes of documents, and that a trial is expected to last weeks.

Baylson, who served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Memeger's current post) from 1988 to 1993, added that from his experience, "There is a direct correlation between the amount of staffing . . . and when that case will be ready for trial."

Memeger, in his letter, said his office will meet the court's deadlines and said Livermore, "a veteran federal prosecutor," has sufficient support on the case.

In his order setting the April 3 hearing, the judge said he plans to set a trial date then.

The indictment, unsealed Feb. 18, charged the Ironworkers' former top leadership and other members with threatening, committing or conspiring to acts of violence against contractors in an effort to force them to hire Ironworkers members on their jobs.

Livermore has said there may be a superseding indictment in the case since more victims have come forward.

On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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