No showdown in Ironworkers case

Posted: April 04, 2014

THE U.S. ATTORNEY'S Office brought out the big guns yesterday in front of a federal judge who had requested that the office assign two more prosecutors to the complex racketeering-conspiracy case involving the local Ironworkers union.

U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger showed up. So did First Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen. And Peter Schenck, chief of the criminal division. And Richard Barrett, chief of the public corruption unit.

But there was no showdown between them and U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson.

Baylson, at a March 13 pretrial conference, had told Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Livermore - the lone federal prosecutor assigned to the case - that he was "going to insist, require" that the U.S. Attorney's Office assign two more prosecutors to the case.

"I can order the government to do certain things, and that's what I'm doing," Baylson said.

Yesterday, however, the judge backed down. "I was expressing a wish, a desire, rather than a court order," he said.

Baylson acknowledged that the U.S. Attorney's Office "has the exclusive authority on how to staff cases and I don't have the power to interfere with that."

Memeger, in a March 17 letter, told the judge that staffing is a matter of the executive agency prosecuting the case. 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."

Yesterday, he told the judge that if all 10 defendants choose to go to trial, this may impact his decision on whether to assign more prosecutors to the case.

Livermore, who was out of town yesterday preparing for a different trial, was not in court.

The judge tried to set a trial date for the case, but with the defense attorneys' schedules and other considerations, it was not possible. He said he hopes for an Oct. 30 trial date, but noted that the trial could start next year.

Eight of the 10 defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy. Baylson said if the two defendants not charged with conspiracy seek to have a separate trial, and if he grants the severance, he would want the trial for the two to start before the trial for the remaining eight.

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.

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