BNA Daily Labor Report: Payback Time for Rigged Vote

July 2, 2008: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit June 27 rejected an appeal of the conviction and sentencing of Charles "Chuck" Crawley, the former president of the Houston-based International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 988 (United States. v. Crawley, 5th Cir., No. 07-20461, 6/27/08).

In May 2007, Crawley was sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to a 78-month prison sentence and ordered to pay penalties of $121,478 on charges of union election fraud, embezzlement, and mail fraud (104 DLR A-2, 5/31/07).

A jury convicted Crawley in December 2006 of mail fraud related to the union's 2002 election, embezzling union funds through election fraud, accepting a $20,000 cash kickback from a telephone system vendor, and making false entries into the union records (238 DLR A-10, 12/12/06).

Crawley served as president of Local 988 from 1997 until his ouster by Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa in October 2003. Crawley was permanently barred from the union in September 2004.

Crawley was convicted for devising a scheme to defraud union members by placing 362 phony ballots marked in his favor for union president into false return envelopes representing members of Local 988 whom Crawley thought would not be voting in the election.

Crawley also was convicted of trying to ensure his re-election as union president by secretly increasing the number of votes registered on his behalf, thereby not entitling him to his salary as president beginning in January 2003. Crawley's conviction on embezzling union property arose from his use of the union's computer system to generate the fraudulent ballots, according to U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle.

Crawley's Appeal

Crawley's appeal to the Fifth Circuit was based largely on a two challenges to his sentence. Crawley maintained it was an error for the district court to use his pension and salary both as a measure of "dollar loss" for its increasing his offense level and as a basis for restitution.

A pre-sentence investigation report determined Crawley's base offense level to be six under sentencing guidelines. It further determined the intended loss to be $1.01 million, which was his salary and pension for 2000 to 2005 with the $20,000 kickback. The loss amount increased the base offense 16 levels.

Crawley argued that the dollar loss should only be the kickback. He contended the intended loss was zero because he intended only to deprive Local 988 of the right to elect their officials in an election free of voter fraud, but not to deprive them of the salary and pension he would receive.

"This contention, however, is inconsistent with the offenses with which Crawley was charged," Judge Rhesa H. Barksdale wrote for the panel of appeals court judges. She was joined by Chief Judge Edith H. Jones and Judge Carl E. Stewart.

The indictment given to the jury stated that Crawley "intended to obtain Local 988 property consisting of a designated salary for the president of Local 988 and associated benefits for the period of January 2003 until January 2006." The court noted the indictment also stated that Crawley "intended to deprive Local 988 and its members of their intangible right to [Crawley's] honest services."

"Although we cannot know which of these theories (if not both) was the basis for Crawley's conviction, each provides a sufficient basis for the district court's determining the intended loss constituted Crawley's salary and pension," the judge wrote.

Defense Attorney's Response

Houston attorney Richard Kuniansky, who represented Crawley, said he was "stunned" by the 3-0 court decision. "I thought we had an excellent case," Kuniansky said.

Kuniansky said he argued that Crawley should have received "some credit" for the work he did for the union, and that it was not fair to take an entire year's worth of salary and pension from his client.

"[Local 988] will get paid back even though they had a president," Kuniansky said. "They're having a windfall."

Kuniansky said he urged the court to apportion the restitution, but the judges could not determine "what part was used for corruption" and asked for his advice.

"I said, 'I don't know, but I do know you don't just tag him for the whole amount,' " Kuniansky said.

Kuniansky said he is unlikely to appeal to the court for an en banc hearing or to the U.S. Supreme Court, but that he has not made a final decision.

Crawley currently is serving his time in the Oakdale Federal Correctional Complex in Louisiana and is expected to be released in August 2012.

Calls to IBT were not immediately returned.

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