U.S. Dist. Judge Suzanne B. Conlon (N.D. IL, Reagan) slapped a 6-1/2 yr. prison sentence on Albin Brenkus on May 3. Brenkus was convicted on March 5 for his part in a multi-state campaign of violence, vandalism and arson in retaliation against three major theater companies in the midst of collective bargaining disputes. Brenkus was the secy.-treasurer of Local 110 of the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees (IATSE) when he orchestrated the planting of smoke bombs in AMC, Cinemark and Loews theatres in 10 states. The multi-state vandalism was apparently aimed at forcing the theatres’ corporate owners into using Local 110 projectionists in their Chicago theatres.
Jurors apparently believed the assertion of Brenkus’ lawyer that he did not know that the bombs’ combination of chlorine and brake fluid could burst into flames if left unattended. Brenkus was acquitted of arson and racketeering charges, but was convicted obstructing justice by instructing a Local 110 member to lie to FBI agents about the beating of a Chi.-area theater mgr.
Brenkus himself was not charged in that beating, but Judge Conlon clearly took it and the arsons into account for her sentencing of Brenkus — an unusually stiff sentence for obstruction of justice. “The whole [beating] plot was Mr. Brenkus’ idea,” Conlon said as she rejected a lawyer’s claim that Brenkus didn’t know that a baseball bat would be used in the beating. Brenkus must also pay a $100,000 fine. [Chicago Daily Herald, 5/4/04]