By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
November 20, 1999
A federal jury in Manhattan on Friday convicted the former political director of the Teamsters union on fraud and conspiracy charges, concluding that he helped divert union money to finance the re-election campaign of the union's former president, Ron Carey.
The jury reached its verdict after a four-week trial in which the prosecutors connected the official, William Hamilton, to a scheme in which $885,000 in union money was funneled to aid Carey's struggling 1996 campaign.
The jury, which deliberated for nearly two days, found Hamilton guilty on all six counts, including conspiracy, embezzlement, fraud and perjury. Hamilton faces up to 30 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 29 by Judge Thomas Griesa of U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Five people have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, but Hamilton was the first person to be tried in a scandal that has rocked the Teamsters, one of the nation's most powerful and prominent unions.
Hamilton's lawyer, G. Robert Gage Jr., said, "We intend to pursue a vigorous appeal."
For more than two weeks, the prosecution presented evidence seeking to show that Hamilton had cooperated with several Carey campaign consultants to use union money as a vehicle to get people outside the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to donate money to the Carey campaign. Carey narrowly defeated James P. Hoffa in the 1996 election, but federal monitors overturned his victory after uncovering the campaign finance fraud.
Prosecution witnesses described a scheme in which the Teamsters union donated $735,000 to Citizen Action and two other liberal groups, and in return wealthy donors to those groups contributed $200,000 to the Carey campaign.
Federal law bars using union money to advance the campaign of a union official.
The prosecution also presented evidence that Hamilton and several Carey campaign aides had agreed to have the Teamsters donate $1 million to various Democratic Party committees if party officials found a Democratic donor to give at least $50,000 to the Carey campaign. Democratic officials failed to find such a donor, and the Teamsters never gave the $1 million to the Democrats, although the union contributed $300,000 to the Democrats in what Teamster and party officials said had nothing to do with a swap scheme.
During the trial, the former finance director of the Democratic National Committee, Richard Sullivan, testified that President Clinton's friend and fund-raiser Terence McAuliffe had worked to advance this scheme. McAuliffe's lawyer, Richard Ben-Veniste, said his client had done nothing wrong.
In 1997, Carey's campaign manager, Jere Nash, and his direct-mail consultant, Martin Davis, pleaded guilty to participating in the campaign finance fraud.
In Hamilton's trial, the prosecutors, Robert Rice and Martine Beamon, argued that he had worked closely with Nash to time Teamster contributions to the liberal groups so they coincided with contributions that those groups' donors made to Carey.
In his closing argument, Gage asserted that Nash, the prosecution's main witness, was not credible because he was a convicted felon who could obtain a lesser sentence by cooperating with the prosecution.
Gage also argued that Hamilton was a victim of a manipulative scheme hatched by Davis. Davis, he contended, knew that Hamilton planned to make large donations to several liberal groups and the Democrats and as a result, Davis parlayed that knowledge into seeking campaign contributions from donors to those groups.
Gage presented several witnesses who praised Hamilton's character. He said Hamilton, 57, had spent many years working for civil rights and abortion rights and had more recently fought "the Gingrich Congress" and Republican attempts to undercut workers' rights. He argued that the donations that Hamilton ordered to liberal groups and the Democratic Party were meant to advance those goals.
"He is not a schemer," Gage said. "He is someone who has spent his entire life working for causes and issues that he has believed in and doing it in an honest, direct and straightforward manner.
During the trial, witnesses provided little evidence showing that Carey had been involved in the fraud.
But witnesses furnished considerably more information about A.F.L.-C.I.O. secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka. Several witnesses indicated that Trumka had worked with Hamilton in an arrangement in which the Teamsters made an unusual $150,000 payment to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., and then the labor federation immediately contributed $150,000 to Citizen Action.
Prosecutors suggested that this was part of a scheme to get Citizen Action's donors to give money to the Carey campaign.
Trumka, who has not been charged in the case, has invoked the Fifth Amendment in refusing to talk to congressional committee and a grand jury. His lawyer, Nicole Seligman, has denied that Trumka did anything improper.