On Jan. 16, U.S. Dist. Judge Richard Arcara (W.D. NY, Reagan) rejected an attempt by lawyers for 14 Buffalo union bosses and associates to throw out their racketeering indictment. Judge Arcara ordered prosecutors and defense lawyers to appear before him on Jan. 20 to set a trial date. The 14 associates of Local 91 of the Laborers Intl. Union of N. Amer. (LIUNA) were charged in May 2002 with a series of threats, vandalism, assaults and bombings directed at non-union contractors and their employees.
Among those indicted were Local 91 president Mark Congi, vice president Salvatore Bertino, and bus. mgr. Michael “Butch” Quarcini. All the officers indicted have been removed from their positions in the local union. In arguing that the racketeering charges should be dismissed, defense lawyers turned to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Scheidler v. Natl. Org. of Women (NOW). The High Ct. ruled, 8-1, that anti-abortion protesters could not be sued for extortion under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act. The Ct. held that sit-downs at the doors of abortion facilities, though intended to prevent legal abortions, did not constitute the taking of “property,” which NOW had defined as the right to procure and perform abortions.
“We argue that there was property at issue in the Local 91 case, and that was jobs,” said Asst. U.S. Attny. Anthony M. Bruce. “The [Arcara] ruling is not unexpected, but we are pleased.” [Buffalo News. 1/17/04]