Eyewitness at Ron Carey’s Trial

by Marilyn Vogt-Downey

[This is an abridgment by Charles Walker. For a complete e-mail copy of the unabridged report and analysis by Marilyn Vogt-Downey, “The Trials of Ron Carey, Teamster Politics and Its Meaning,” please send requests to bobibt@aol.com.

[Marilyn Vogt-Downey’s eyewitness account of Ron Carey’s trial is invaluable, because few Teamsters attended the trial, and most reporters left after its start and didn’t return. Aside from the trial transcript, Vogt-Downey’s report is the most complete written account available. As such it ranks in importance with Bill Leumer’s eyewitness account of the Independent Review Board (IRB) hearing that led to Carey’s outrageous ouster from the Teamsters Union (see Socialist Action, February 1998), and Ron Carey’s lawyer’s brief to the U.S. District Court of New York (see Socialist Action, December 1997, Special Edition).]

The Trials of Ron Carey, Teamster Politics and Its Meaning

On Friday, October 12, 2001 a jury of 4 men and 8 women in Manhattan found Ron Carey, the first democratically elected President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), not guilty on all seven counts of perjury — lying to or concealing information from investigating authorities. The seven counts were contained in a federal indictment handed down on January 25, 2001, by the U.S. District Court Southern District. The seven counts together cited several dozen instances (“stipulations”) when the U.S. government claimed Ron Carey allegedly lied or concealed information. They charged he consistently denied any knowledge of or participation in schemes to illegally use IBT treasury funds to finance his 1996 successful campaign for reelection to the union’s top post.  The IBT is the largest private-sector union in the United States with approximately 1.4 million members.

Each count was based on statements Ron Carey had made when testifying about these matters at various times over a five-month period. Over this period from July 16, 1997, through January 22, 1998, he testified before two different Election Officers (EO), three times before the Internal Review Board (IRB) Chief Investigator or the IRB, and twice before a federal grand jury.  Both the EO and the IRB were imposed on the IBT by the 1989 Consent Decree giving the U.S. government extensive powers inside the IBT.

Seven Charges But Not Seven Different Crimes

In other words, the Prosecution was not charging Ron Carey with seven different crimes. The government was prosecuting him seven times for the same thing: consistently asserting that he was innocent of any wrongdoing.  Each charge carried a punishment of 5 years in prison. If convicted of all charges, the 64-year-old Carey could have faced a 35-year prison term. The Prosecution was trying to force him to plea-bargain: plead guilty to some of the counts in return for a reduced sentence.  But he refused to give up the fight to prove his innocence and clear his name. In the process he would expose a rotten conspiracy by the U.S. government and its agents, expending and abusing enormous public funds over a prolonged period, to frame up an honest and committed trade union leader. This conspiracy was calculated to remove from the picture a trade union official who was helping revive the American trade union movement, and to derail and demoralize the IBT and other trade union reform movements and reinforce the business unionism of the entrenched Old Guard around James Hoffa Jr.

Ron Carey’s victory over the government at this trial is a victory for all working people.

No Charge of Embezzlement

It must be emphasized that the U.S. government was not charging Ron Carey with embezzlement of union funds or conspiring to embezzle union funds although his guilt of such charges was assumed in the indictment. Therefore, the government did not have to try to prove Ron was guilty of such charges. This is very significant because it was in connection with such charges and on the basis of such charges that the Consent Decree officials had already succeeded in seriously victimizing Ron Carey and carrying out far-reaching measures since 1997 by:

When due process was finally allowed to Ron Carey, the jury found Ron Carey not guilty on October 12 because, despite all the measures the U.S. government had taken against him, the Prosecution’s case was a sham.

Campaign Embezzlement Schemes Uncovered

In connection with Carey’s [1996] reelection, the defeated Hoffa slate and the corrupt and bought-off officials who clung to him, along with the remnants of the Old Guard, began filing objections with the EO [Election Officer], Barbara Zach Quindel. As a consequence of these, she postponed certifying Carey’s election victory.  Evidence of abuse of union funds by the Carey Campaign soon began to emerge. In the end, the attention came to be focused on what was termed “swap schemes” and other contributions from non-IBT members and employers that violated the EO’s Election Rules. What follows is a summary of what took place based on information in the Indictment against Ron Carey, the ruling of EO Kenneth Conboy in November 1997, and testimony at trial of Ron Carey.

The three people who were actually responsible for the embezzlement schemes were not members of the IBT but hired staff working on the Carey Campaign.  One was Jere Nash, who had been hired by Ron Carey to be the Campaign Manager.  Another was Martin Davis who worked for The November Group, Inc., a direct-mail outfit hired by the Campaign to prepare and distribute campaign materials. The third was Michael Ansara of a telemarketing outfit called The Share Group, Inc. The three — Nash, Davis, and Ansara — cooked up schemes to use the Campaign to raise funds for themselves.

In late 1995, Ron Carey hired The November Group, which had done some work for the reform slate campaign in 1991, to work on the 1996 Campaign to reelect Ron Carey. In February 1996, Ron Carey hired Jere Nash to be the full-time director of this Campaign. And in April 1996, The November Group hired Michael Ansara and The Share Group to help it. Nash was a public relations consultant who had worked for the Carey administration before and evidently had a reputation for aggressive campaigning when he worked for various Democratic Party candidates.

Victims of a Web of Deceit

What Ron Carey did not know and what no one else on the Campaign staff or the Carey administration knew at the time was that while Nash was allegedly supposed to be working full-time for the Carey Campaign for a salary of $2,500 per month, he was also working for The November Group for a salary of $8,000 per month from April through June (allegedly part-time) and for $18,000 per month to work for them full-time from August through November, the final months of the Campaign. Furthermore, Nash not only worked for The November Group; but he was in charge of the Carey Campaign account at The November Group. In addition, it was revealed at the trial that Nash’s contract with The November Group provided lavish perks like first-class air travel for Nash and his family between Mississippi, where they lived, and Washington D.C., where campaign headquarters were located.  And in December 1996, Nash got a $50,000 bonus!

In the spring, summer, and fall of 1996, Martin Davis, Michael Ansara, and Jere Nash came up with several illegal ways to raise Campaign funds, which would be funneled to The November Group, i.e., to themselves.  One was soliciting funds from other union leaders. This is illegal and against the EO’s election rules and would have been vetoed by the Carey Campaign’s legal counsel and by Ron Carey had they been informed of such a plan. Under federal and EO rules, union leaders are considered “employers,” who are not allowed to contribute to union election campaigns. The other was “swap schemes”: to contribute union funds legally to non-profit or political action organizations and arrange that, in return, wealthy individuals who support these organizations or even the organizations themselves would contribute a certain lesser amount to the Campaign.

None of these guys were supposed to have their hands in the IBT General Treasury. Nash, as Campaign Director, had authority to engage in Campaign fundraising and help decide how Campaign funds should best be spent, but Martin Davis and Michael Ansara were not authorized to and had no business doing official Campaign fundraising.

As a result of such “swap schemes,” the Indictment against Carey states, a total of $885,000 of IBT General Treasury funds were allegedly spent in roughly the last two weeks of October and the first days of November 1996 in return for $360,000 that came into an account called Teamsters for a Corruption-Free Union (TCFU). The TCFU was set up legally to receive non-IBT Campaign contributions; but it also received funds solicited illegally by Nash, Davis, and Ansara through these schemes for The November Group.

This raises the question of why so much money was allegedly needed by the Campaign.

In the summer of 1996, Ansara (who technically did not even work for the Campaign), Davis (who was not hired by the Campaign to raise funds but to prepare campaign materials and get them out), and Nash (wearing the hats of BOTH Campaign Director and Account Executive for the Carey Campaign Account at The November Group, which was employed by the Campaign) agreed that Nash should propose that the Campaign do a direct mailing to the 1.4 million IBT members. They agreed to raise $700,000 for this purpose with Nash to contribute $300,000 from the Campaign funds and Martin Davis to raise the other $400,000. The TCFU was set up to receive these non-IBT funds that were to go to The November Group project. All the illegal fundraising and abuse of IBT treasury funds started and ended with the self-serving schemes these three individuals carried out, with two IBT staff members, William Hamilton and Monian Simpkins, duped into helping by Nash.

How do you pull off a scheme like that?

You lie a lot. Jere Nash was the key perpetrator, which is why he was worth $18,000 per month to The November Group. Nash, called by the Prosecution to testify at Ron Carey’s trial, said that in early October 1996, he met with William Hamilton, Director of Governmental Affairs for the IBT, who had the authority to recommend expenditures of IBT General Treasury funds.  Nash told Hamilton to expect some requests for funds from the IBT treasury, providing no specifics. But he stated that these expenditures would help Campaign fundraising and that Ron Carey had approved the plan. When these requests came in, Hamilton was to issue formal requests for approval of the expenditures to Ron Carey’s office.

Nash also stated that in October, he met with Ron Carey’s Executive Secretary Monian (“Monie”) Simpkins and told her that some requests for disbursement from the IBT General Treasury would be coming to her office from William Hamilton for Ron’s approval. He also told her that these disbursements would help Campaign fundraising, that the attorneys and Ron had approved of them, that the Treasury would be reimbursed, and that she should expedite their approval and send them back to Hamilton as soon as possible.

During October 1996, Ron Carey was frequently out on the road. Disbursement of funds did not require his actual signature on the check, but only an “OK” on a memo followed by his initials if he were in the office, or his initials and hers if he were out of the office. The actual checks were later signed by a signature machine.

Through this scheme, $475,000 of IBT funds was sent to Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group (10/24); $85,000 to the National Council of Senior Citizens, a senior citizens advocacy group (10/17); and $175,000 to Project Vote in two contributions, one (10/17) and another (10/24). There are further government charges that Davis and Nash received an additional $100,000 by arranging for $150,000 in IBT funds to go to the AFL-CIO (11/1), which sent the same amount to Citizen Action, which in turn sent the TCFU $100,000. This adds up to a total of $885,000 of IBT Treasury funds that was allegedly expended in return for $360,000 to the TCFU account and then to The November Group. In addition to the swap schemes, Nash and Davis allegedly used other illegal schemes, raising a total of $538,100 in the course of the campaign, according to the November 27, 1997, report of Election Officer Kenneth Conboy.

The Feds Go After Carey

Immediately following the 1996 IBT elections, Conboy’s predecessor as EO, Barbara Zach Quindel, began to investigate the Carey Campaign election finances and complaints of irregularities, as was her responsibility under the Consent Decree.  According to all the testimony of attorneys involved, Ron Carey immediately upon learning of the problem ordered his entire staff and administration to cooperate in every way with the EO investigation. Susan Davis, part of the legal team advising the Carey Campaign, in her testimony at Ron Carey’s trial, stated that Ron and the attorneys and the entire reform and campaign staff were fanatics on the issue of maintaining transparent finances and often erred on the side of caution in order to avoid any possibility of wrongdoing.  Susan Davis said that when the first improper contribution came to light in February 1997, $95,000 from what turned out to be an employer, Ron Carey and his campaign attorneys ordered it immediately returned and it was.

The investigation by the EO continued from late 1996 through 1997.

In early March 1997, having read of allegations of financial abuses by the Campaign, an agitated Monie Simpkins contacted and met with Susan Davis. Monie told her about financial requests approved at Nash’s instruction, that Nash had told her the legal counsel had approved the transactions, and that Carey did not know about them. Susan Davis immediately went to Carey with this information and a new phase of the crisis was opened. A shocked Carey instructed that all material about anything of this nature be turned over to the EO authorities immediately and fully.

The Carey Campaign attorneys called Nash in for a meeting and he told them of his schemes. They advised him to get an attorney, which he did, after which he fought unsuccessfully to keep the details from coming out by claiming attorney/client privilege. Meanwhile, the EO’s investigation expanded and Carey and his attorneys fully cooperated.

Months later, on July 16, 1997, Ron Carey testified before a federal grand jury that had by then been convened to investigate the finances of his Campaign; on July 17, 1997, he testified before the EO. On both days, he categorically and unequivocally denied he knew anything about the illegal contributions, the swap schemes, or the contributions by non-IBT union officials. He consistently asserted that if he had been told anything about this, he would have stopped it. These two days of testimony provided the basis for two of the seven counts in the January 2001 federal indictment against him for making false statements, committing perjury and concealing materials. In other words, Ron Carey was not only charged with lying but with concealing something he knew nothing about.

Big IBT Victory or Why the Feds Went After Ron Carey — More Background

In the meantime, even though the EO had not certified the election results, Carey had been inaugurated as the reelected General President of the IBT on Saturday, March 22, 1997. Carey and the reformers led the 15-day strike of the nation’s 185,000 United Parcel System (UPS) workers in August 1997 that electrified the U.S. labor movement. This was a fight against a series of vicious take-back grabs by management and a struggle to turn thousands of UPS part-time into full-time jobs, and the workers won considerable gains. As Charles Walker, a long-time IBT member described it: “To boil it down, Carey beat UPS because the union’s demands were set by the ranks, he involved the membership in the fight, and he and the members presented a united front to the corporation.”

Three days after the strike ended, on August 21, 1997, EO Quindel announced she could not certify the 1996 election because “non-IBT members made $221,000 in improper contributions to the TCFU account. The donations in question, she stated, were from “employers” and were solicited by “employers” and were from “a contribution swap scheme.” But she said that her “investigation had not disclosed any evidence that Mr. Carey or any member of his slate knew of or participated in the various improper fundraising schemes.”

On September 18, 1997, Jere Nash, Martin Davis, and Mike Ansara pleaded guilty to felonies in connection with Campaign fundraising. As part of a plea bargain, they agreed to cooperate fully with the government. Jere Nash pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of making false statements and encouraging others to do the same, one count of using the phone and mail to defraud the union, and one count of embezzling union funds; Martin Davis to one count of conspiracy, one count of embezzlement and one count of mail fraud; and Ansara to one count of conspiracy.

On September 19, 1997, Quindel was replaced as EO by Kenneth Conboy, a former Manhattan District Court Judge who had previously been appointed by the Government as Election Appeals Master working with the EO under the 1989 Consent Decree.  Conboy was incredibly appointed EO “for the sole purpose of investigating and deciding the issue of disqualification of Ron Carey from the rerun election.” (His statement in ruling of November 1997.)

On October 1, 1997 Ron Carey testified again before a grand jury investigating possible illegalities in his Campaign financing; on October 28, 1997 he testified on the same thing before the IRB‘s Chief Investigator Charles Carberry. The IRB is a 3-member panel empowered by the Consent Decree to investigate, prosecute, and punish individuals accused of corrupt or illegal behavior or behavior that violates Consent Decree Rules; and on November 10, 1997 Ron Carey testified about these matters before EO Conboy. On all three occasions, he again unequivocally denied any knowledge of or role in the swap schemes or other illegal contributions and maintained that if he had known of them, he would have stopped them.

On November 17,1997, Conboy nevertheless issued a 44-page ruling. Based allegedly on the testimony of Jere Nash, Monie Simpkins, and William Hamilton, Conboy concluded: “Ron Carey…tolerated and engaged in extensive rules violations in broad furtherance of his reelection campaign…Mr. Carey knew that his campaign…was raising tens of thousands of dollars from union officials and others defined under the Rules as employers.” And, therefore, Ron Carey was “disqualified under the Election Rules from running as a candidate in the rerun elections.”

On November 25, Ron Carey announced he would take an unpaid leave from the IBT to devote full time to fighting these false charges.

On December 30, 1997, Judge David Edelstein upheld the Quindel ruling denying certification of Carey’s and the reform slate’s 1996 election victory.

In January 1998, the IRB held hearings in its capacity as investigator, prosecutor, jury, and judge of Ron Carey in deciding whether he—in view of the charges in Conboy’s ruling — should be allowed to remain in the Teamsters union. It took testimony again from Ron Carey on his alleged involvement in the illegal fundraising and he again consistently denied any involvement in the schemes.

On July 27, 1998, the IRB nevertheless expelled Ron Carey from the IBT and prohibited him from ever again running for union office or having any contact with IBT members. He was declared guilty of not fulfilling his fiduciary duties for “failing to disclose that he was receiving a personal benefit in connection with his authorization of union contributions” and because he “failed to exercise his fiduciary duties to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the unusual contributions recommended for his approval…” In other words, he was charged with both not investigating and benefiting secretly from the same “unusual contributions” he had stated he knew nothing about. That is like charging someone with benefiting from and at the same time failing to report to the police a robbery you did not even know took place!

On August 27, 1999, Judge Edelstein affirmed an earlier IRB decision that “new evidence” could not overturn the expulsion of Ron Carey (and William Hamilton) from the IBT.

On January 25, 2001, U.S. District Court Southern District of New York announced a criminal indictment against Ron Carey. As stated above, the seven-count indictment turned those seven times he testified and maintained his innocence into criminal behavior. He was charged with making false statements to the EO and the IRB and committing perjury before grand juries.

On Monday, August 27, 2001, his case finally came to court when a jury was selected. The next day, the Prosecution and the Defense made their opening arguments.  The trial, which was originally expected to last 3 weeks, stretched well into October because of interruptions due to national and religious holidays and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Because it was located only a few blocks from “Ground Zero,” the Federal Courthouse where the trial was taking place was closed after the attacks and the trial could not resume for two weeks.

What the Carey Trial Showed

The key witnesses to back the State’s claims that Ron Carey lied were the same ones used by Conboy against Carey in his November 1997 ruling, i.e., Jere Nash, William Hamilton, and Monie Simpkins. But the prosecutors definitely encountered some big problems when they tried to make their case seem credible to a jury.

Prosecution Problem No. 1:  Jere Nash

Jere Nash, who has pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges since 1997, did not come to testify from prison. If he is to be believed, he has his own consulting firm doing public relations in Mississippi, just as he always did.  He is not in prison because he pledged to cooperate fully with the Prosecution and provide “substantial” assistance in the prosecution of Ron Carey. If U.S. Prosecutors deem his assistance has been “substantial,” they will write what’s called “a 5K1 letter” to the judge who presided in his case, recommending leniency in punishment for the charges he pleaded guilty to. This was revealed to the jury by the Prosecution in the course of its examination of him on the witness stand, because jurors legally are supposed to be told of such plea-bargain arrangements. The Defense attorney, however, helped clarify just what kind of a person Jere Nash is during cross-examination by revealing that Nash had lied not once to the Prosecution but on many occasions.

As stated above, Nash pleaded guilty to the four felony counts in September 1997. He was allowed to remain free if he agreed to testify truthfully and commit no further crimes and cooperate fully with the Prosecution in return for a 5K1 letter.  However, by 1998, the investigators had uncovered further embezzlement and lies by Nash.  In 1999, he admitted he had lied, and he then pleaded guilty to more counts of embezzlement, mail fraud, and false statements.  Nevertheless, the Prosecution again allowed him to remain free if he pleaded guilty, spoke truthfully, cooperated fully with the Prosecution, and committed no more crimes; and a 5K1 letter was again promised.  Otherwise, he faced a 20-year sentence and a $1,250,000 fine.

Any unbiased observer could realize he had a clear incentive to lie for the Prosecution and would have to consider Jere Nash an unreliable witness on the basis of this alone. But there’s more.

Despite his criminal past and sleazy qualities, the prosecutors allowed Nash back out on the street and brought him to the witness stand because they needed to use him to try to get Carey. They needed him to substantiate a phony charge that Ron Carey was aware of the illegal schemes and had lied when he denied this. Nash had concocted several versions of how Carey could have learned about the schemes, but by the time of the trial, the Prosecution had evidently disposed of all but the following: that Ron knew of the schemes because they were included in a fundraising chart that Nash claimed he discussed with Ron on several occasions and faxed to him when he was on the road; and because Nash spoke to Carey about the schemes during a very brief telephone conversation “on October 16 or 17,” 1996.

Unfortunately for the Prosecution, these two variants were no good either. The problem with the chart testimony is that throughout the investigation in 1997–98, Nash claimed he could not produce this chart because he had erased it from his computer. Nor was the Prosecution able to produce any of the alleged fax copies despite the fact that the Campaign had turned over all materials relating to its finances. In the spring of 1999, however, just when Nash’s luck at avoiding prison was running out, when he had little choice but to confess a second time to having lied to prosecutors regarding additional instances of embezzlement of IBT and Campaign funds, Nash suddenly “found” this chart on a floppy disc he claims he failed somehow to turn over to investigators with all the other Campaign materials when the investigation began in 1997. One smelled a rat.

There were big problems with his testimony about the telephone conversation too, because the phone records show that it never took place. He testified at the trial and to the EO in 1997 that he had taken his cell phone outside the Campaign office into the hall on “October 16 or 17” so that he could secure Ron’s approval of an illegal contribution without being overheard. It was a short call, he said, of 15–20 seconds, in which he told Ron that if he approved a Citizen Action request, “it would help Martin Davis with the Campaign fundraising.” Nash says Ron had responded “Hell, nobody ever told it to me that way,” and that Ron had subsequently allegedly approved an even larger contribution to Citizen Action.

The Defense, in cross-examination and in its summary, however, was able to prove on the basis of Nash’s own cell phone records — nicely enlarged during summation so the jury could clearly see them — that no such call took place. The only call that could possibly have fit that time frame and description was not made from the Campaign headquarters but from a restaurant. The Defense proved this with Nash’s credit card receipt from the restaurant showing the time and date, also nicely enlarged for the jury to see. Nash made the whole story up; the call never took place, the Prosecution knew it, and now the jury did too.

His testimony on many other issues throughout the investigation kept changing, was inconsistent, and contradicted itself as documents produced by the Defense during the trial established. For example, at the trial he testified that he had told Monie Simpkins about the scheme when he met with her. However, in other testimony, he had told investigators he had not met with her but only spoke with her on the phone.  Moreover, it seemed that the Defense had uncovered two more instances where Nash cheated and lied that the Prosecution may not have known about: he double-billed for reimbursement of his personal expenses both the Campaign and The November Group and he appears to have cheated the IRS by not properly paying taxes on his December 1996 $50,000 bonus.

All this prevarication was on top of having secretly worked full-time for The November Group for $18,000 per month while the Campaign workers thought he was working full-time for the Campaign and was getting paid $2,500 per month to do so.

Lastly, during redirect, when the Prosecutors questioned Nash again after the Defense cross-examined him, his own testimony substantiated Ron Carey’s insistence that he did not know about the swap schemes:

“Prosecution: Did you ever tell Ron Carey that individuals would be making deposits into the TCFU in exchange for the contributions to political organizations?

Jere Nash: No.

Prosecutor: Was Ron Carey involved in any way in the swap transaction?

Jere Nash: No Ma’am.”

Despite days of coaching, the Prosecution ended up getting no “substantial assistance” against Ron Carey from Jere Nash. Doesn’t look good for that 5KI letter.

Prosecution Problem No. 2: William Hamilton

William W. Hamilton, Jr., the Director of the IBT Governmental Affairs Department under the Carey administration, was in charge of disbursing funds for any political causes and could authorize expenditures from the IBT General Treasury or from its political action account (DRIVE).  He wrote the formal requests for checks to be approved to the office of Ron Carey.

In early October 1996, according to his and Nash’s testimony, Nash arranged the meeting with Hamilton mentioned above, to tell Hamilton about Nash’s spending plan that involved the swap schemes and non-IBT contributions. Hamilton says Nash indicated no amounts and named no organizations but said the plan would aid Campaign fundraising and that Carey was on board.  Hamilton said he agreed to cooperate as long as the contributions were consistent with IBT goals. In March 2000 Hamilton was sentenced to an 18-month prison term after his November 1999 conviction of fraud and conspiracy charges in connection with his role in the embezzlement of $885,000 from the IBT treasury and the swap schemes. Even though he had been called by the Prosecution, he turned out to be a hostile witness.

He testified that he had never spoken with Ron Carey about his conversation with Nash, about the swap schemes, or about any of the specific contributions. Yet, assertions that Hamilton had discussed the swap schemes with Carey had served to justify the decisions of EO Conboy and the IRB against Carey.

Assertions attributed to him that Carey knew about the swap and other illegal contribution schemes were based on references to two conversations he allegedly had with Carey. One was a very brief (“30–40 second”) conversation on his office phone when Carey was patched through to him from the field. It was allegedly in connection with a contribution to Citizen Action that was awaiting Carey’s approval. The other was a one-sentence comment Carey allegedly made to Hamilton when Hamilton went up to greet Carey who was on the dais at an IBT banquet in Indianapolis on November 3, 1996. On examination, neither demonstrated that Carey was in on the scheme.

When testifying to his remarks to Carey during the brief office phone exchange, Hamilton claims he merely said something like “there is a request for a large contribution that needs action.“  He said that Ron replied; “‘I’ll take a look at it’ or ‘I’ll deal with it later.’“ Hamilton stated at the trial that he could not recall if he mentioned that the check in question was to Citizen Action. He did not believe he ever discussed the Citizen Action contributions with Ron. He said he had never told Ron Carey about his conversation with Jere Nash or what Nash was up to.

As regards the Indianapolis banquet verbal exchange, Hamilton testified that he went up to shake Carey’s hand and Carey asked him: “Why are we spending so much treasury money?” Hamilton said he responded: “It is appropriate and it is legal.” At the time, Hamilton said, Carey’s comment “puzzled” him because “Carey was supposed to be in the loop.”

The latter exchange actually serves to dispel any idea that Carey knew about the illegal schemes. If he had known, he would not have made such a statement; he would have known full well what was going on. His testimony supported Carey’s innocence and not the Prosecution’s charges.

Prosecution Problem No. 3: Monian Simpkins

Carey’s Executive Secretary, Monian Simpkins, was the one who had claimed she had spoken the most with Ron on the telephone to get approval for each check. The Prosecution had evidently tried very hard to properly coach and prepare her to be a believable prosecution witness, her attire and demeanor even designed to produce an impression of weepy and dowdy innocence. However, Simpkin’s credibility by the end of the trial was to be shattered by both the Defense and by the searching inquiries of the jurors themselves.

Even if Nash came off as a congenital liar and Hamilton’s testimony confirmed that Carey knew nothing about the swap and other illegal fundraising schemes, the Prosecution still had the secretary who allegedly spoke to Carey and got his approval for all the illegal swap scheme contributions. Her initials or hers with Ron’s after “OK” on the memo requests seemed to indicate that Ron had approved the contributions and thus was implicated in criminal behavior.

The chief problem was that she had too many versions of what happened.

In October 1996, as the Defense brought out during the trial, she had told two co-workers — Gary Heying and Theresa Sherman—that she had approved the contributions without getting hold of Carey because Nash was putting pressure on her; she said she was afraid she might go to jail for it.

In March 1997, when she first spoke with Susan Davis about illegal contributions she had approved, she couldn’t remember who they went to or what the amounts were; and she told Susan Davis that Ron knew nothing about it.

Later on in March 1997, after telling Susan Davis about the problems, she had substantive conversations with co-worker Theresa Sherman. Here is the revealing exchange on this incident from the trial:

“Defense (Reid Weingarten): After your conversation with Susan Davis, did you not in fact go to Theresa Sherman and tell her that you are in a boatload of trouble, words to that effect?

Simpkins: It’s possible; I don’t recall specifically.

D: Did you have a substantive conversation with Theresa Sherman when you told her that Ron did not know about any of the contributions and that they, meaning the government, had twisted the details; didn’t you tell her that?

S: I don’t recall that.

D. Isn’t it true you told Theresa Sherman that if Ron had known any of the details he would have stopped the scheme?

S. I did feel if he knew about the scheme he would have stopped it, yes. I don’t recall specifically saying that specific conversation. [Trial transcript: pp. 851–852]

D. One more question about Theresa Sherman. Did you tell her you were distraught, that the government relied on you, and you wanted Theresa to relay a message to Ron that you still believed in him, that you knew in your heart that he didn’t know about the scheme?

S. I don’t recall all of that. I know that I did say to her at one point that I knew in my heart that Mr. Carey did not know about the scheme. [p. 853]


D: You do not believe and you have testified that he [Ron Carey] did not know about any quid pro quo or any arrangement whereby IBT contributions to political organizations would result in contributions to him?

A. I have no knowledge of him knowing that.” [p. 854]

When the Prosecution then took over the questioning, on redirect, the Prosecutor returned to the statement of Simpkins:

“Prosecutor: There was one I believe question you were asked as to whether you made a statement to Ms. Sherman in which in substance you said that you knew in your heart, the statement began with that: do you recall that?

A.: Yes.

P. Do you remember that statement you were asked about [by Defense. See above]?

A. If Mr. Carey knew about this scheme?

P. What scheme were you referring to when you responded to that question?

A. A swap scheme between IBT contributions and money going to Mr. Carey’s campaign.” [pp. 859–60]

Thus, did it happen that all three witnesses who had been called by the Prosecution to provide testimony implicating Ron Carey in the swap schemes explicitly stated that Carey did not know about them.

But Did Ron Carey Nevertheless Approve the Contributions?

In March 1997, when Simpkins first met with IBT attorney Mike Smith, she told him that she might have talked to Ron about one of the checks.

By October 1997, she was testifying that Ron had approved all of the illegal requests. Here is her sworn testimony before EO Conboy at that time:

“In or about October 1996, I met with Jere Nash, the campaign manager for Carey’s reelection campaign, in the lobby of the apartment building where the campaign headquarters was located. During that meeting, Jere Nash told me, in substance, that the IBT was going to make contribution[s?] to certain organizations, and in return, certain individuals in these organizations would contribute to the Teamsters For a Corruption-Free Union. Jere Nash further told me, in substance, that I would be receiving memoranda relating to these IBT contribution[s?], and requested that I expeditiously get approval for that. Jere Nash also told me, in substance, that this had been approved by the attorneys, who I understood were the attorneys for the Carey campaign.

“Subsequently, I had a conversation with Ron Carey in which I told him, with respect to my conversation with Jere Nash, that Nash had talked to me about the IBT making contributions.

“Commencing in or about mid-October 1996, I received approximately four memoranda from Bill Hamilton, the director of the IBT’s government affairs department, requesting approval of certain contributions. These include [the four contributions, the amounts and intended incipient /recipient?/ are listed]. In each case, Jere Nash notified me that I would be receiving a memo regarding the particular contribution, and told me, in substance, that I should expedite getting memoranda approved.

“I discussed each of those four memoranda with Carey. To the best of my recollection, these conversations were over the telephone. I indicated to Carey, in substance, that each contribution request was one that Jere Nash had called about. I also told Carey the substance of the memoranda, including, without limitation, the name of the organization for which the contribution had been requested and the amount of the requested contribution.”

The jurors, in their two requests for clarification of Simpkins‘ testimony, facilitated the contraposition of all her contradictory stories:  At one point in her trial testimony, she said that Ron said for her to talk to Susan Davis about the contributions, at another point she said that when she tried to speak with Ron about the contributions he had said, “I don’t want to know about it.“ She had also testified that she had tried to speak with Ron about the contributions but he had brushed her off and gone on to other subjects. And she had told several others as cited above that Ron knew nothing about it.

Defense argued convincingly that the deposition read into the transcript and quoted above, which Simpkins had signed and which was used as evidence against Ron Carey at the Conboy hearing and by the Prosecution was not what really happened but what the Prosecution had told her to say for them. The jurors, in requesting information, highlighted the fact that in addition, Nash had never instructed Simpkins to mention Nash’s name.

As Simpkins had told Theresa: the government “had twisted” the details to suit their needs. Her testimony against Ron Carey was not at all believable.

“If the Time Line Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit!

An additional problem with the Prosecution’s case was its time line. This, like the other key contradictions and fault-lines in the Prosecutions’ case, was demonstrated to the jury by Defense Attorney Reid Weingarten in his brilliant summary remarks to the jury.

Simpkins had testified that she met with Jere Nash and learned of the schemes after a staff meeting that took place October 21. But Nash claimed his mythical call to prod Carey to sign the Citizen Action check took place before that on “October 16 or 17;” and two of the four memoranda requesting contributions were marked approved before then, on October 17. “The Prosecution’s time line doesn’t fit,“ Defense Attorney Weingarten showed the jury. Pulling a line from Johnny Cochran at the O.J. Simpson trial, Weingarten admonished the jurors: “If the time line doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

The Jury Comes Through

The jury took the better part of two days to reach a verdict — around 1½ hours on the first day, an entire second day, the better part of a third day. However, several hours of both the second and third day were spent waiting for the court to produce segments of Simpkins’s testimony the jurors had requested for review. According to jurors who spoke after the trial, eleven of the twelve jurors were for acquittal from the outset; one wanted to review Simpkins’s testimony.

I heard all but the first two days of the trial — the jury selection (“voir dire”) and the opening statements. Hardly any former Carey supporters came to observe the case who were not in Ron’s family or working with the legal team, barely a handful of people (perhaps six?) during the whole trial. Ron’s very moving acceptance speech when he was elected IBT General President in 1991 committed the IBT to fight for the “forgotten teamster” the ordinary member who was the last priority of the corrupt former officials, but would be the first priority, he pledged, from then on. The five years of government persecution — fall 1996–fall 2001 — had apparently left Carey, one of the most inspiring trade union leaders in recent decades, forgotten.  It was unbelievable. Not even much press showed up after the first few days; few even showed up to hear the jury’s verdict.

At 2:43 p.m. on Friday, October 12, the jury announced it had reached its verdict, and the jurors were escorted to their seats in the jury box. The jury foreman, a young student at Baruch College, stood and read out their decision:

On Count #1, the jury finds the defendant Ron Carey “not guilty.” On Count #2, the jury finds the defendant Ron Carey “not guilty.” As he read on, the suspense built: one wondered: “Would they somehow falter and weaken and find Ron guilty on one count out of insecurity or out of deference to the Prosecution?” It had seemed like they had taken so long to decide.

But when he reached the last count and read, “On Count #7, the jury finds the defendant Ron Carey ‘not guilty,’” one could say with certainty: justice is sweet.  It was a wonderful day: a terrible injustice was finally over.

Or partly over. A jury of his peers — workers, students, union members — has ruled that Ron Carey did not know about or participate in the abuse of IBT funds. He did not cover up or fail to disclose information to the Prosecution; he did not violate his fiduciary duties as President of the union.

The jury rejected and invalidated evidence used by EO Kenneth Conboy in November 1997 disqualifying Ron Carey as a candidate in the 1996 IBT elections. Conboy relied solely on the false testimony of Nash, Hamilton, and Simpkins that they had spoken to Ron about the Citizen Action contribution. Despite the fact that Monie Simpkins had already told at least two other versions of the events and that Nash had already been lying to the Prosecution, Conboy wrote in his ruling: “And I do not believe they testified falsely…Mr. Nash is a very credible witness…nor do I believe that Ms. Simpkins would fabricate conversations with Ron Carey…I do not believe Mr. Hamilton had a motive to fabricate a conversation with Mr. Carey about Citizen Action.” But all three of these witnesses contradicted themselves, repudiated whatever they had — for whatever reason — said previously and, before the jury, stated they never mentioned Citizen Action contributions or any others to Ron Carey.

Ron Carey was not lying when he testified. He alone had consistently told the truth. And in the end, the Prosecution witnesses substantiated him.

Now the decisions of Conboy and the IRB have been exposed as unfounded. Ron Carey’s IBT membership and all his benefits and rights as a member of the IBT should be restored, and he should proudly resume his active participation in the reform movement in the IBT and the U.S. labor movement.

The EO’s Double Standards

The Carey Campaign raised $1.6 million for the 1996 IBT election campaign. The Hoffa slate raised more than double that: more than $3.6 million, according to the IRB official Michael Cherkasky. In the summer of 1996, the Carey Campaign charged the Hoffa Campaign had broken the EO’s Election Rules on fundraising by raising more than $1.8 million from bosses and mobsters.  EO Quindel refused to even investigate the charges, maintaining that since Hoffa lost the elections, his violations were “immaterial.”  Nevertheless, she invalidated the Carey election victory on the basis of allegedly illegal contributions totaling 1/70 of that amount!  Subsequently, her replacement Kenneth Conboy, probably to give the impression of “evenhandedness,” in the very ruling that disqualified Carey as a candidate in the reelection, agreed to investigate Hoffa Campaign finances.

In April 1998, Cherkasky found the Hoffa campaign had violated the EO Election Rules in a host of ways: filing fraudulent financial reports, failing to report contributions, and using IBT facilities for all sorts of Hoffa Campaign purposes. But Hoffa was not held responsible and no serious punishment was imposed. The EO limited the fines to around $44,000. The Hoffa campaign was also fined a little over $16,000 for accepting services of totaling nearly $177,000 from an employer. However, the EO accepted the Hoffa campaign’s blatantly implausible claim that it had raised over $2 million in small donations of under $100, the sources of which need not be officially reported!

Thus, in this way too, the Consent Decree officials prepared the way for the Hoffa slate to take power.

As Defense attorney Reid Weingarten explained, the Prosecution testimony was “fabricated from whole cloth.”

More Forgotten Teamsters

As Ron Carey himself put it outside the courtroom one day:  “It’s somebody else pushing the buttons here. They just don’t want to see a revitalized labor movement…They sat around a table and said: ‘We‘ve gotta get this guy.’” The frame-up of Ron Carey was part and parcel of the Consent Decree, which is an attack on the rights of IBT members and all workers. Ending corruption in the Teamsters, removing the Hoffas and all the opportunists and crooks who make deals with the bosses at the members’ expenses can only be done the hard way: by the Teamster members themselves.

This brings to mind some other “forgotten Teamsters” like the Dunne brothers: Grant, Miles, and Vincent Ray; Carl Skoglund; Farrell Dobbs; Harry DeBoer; and Jake Cooper. These were among the bold trade unionists in Teamsters Local 574 (later, Local 544) who began the struggle in Minneapolis in 1934 that ultimately led to the transformation of the Teamsters union there from a narrow, conservative, job trust into a mass industrial organization. Through their efforts masses of workers mobilized in militant, coordinated, organized struggles where they effectively physically defended their mass pickets and themselves against employer-backed police, goon, and scab attacks and won. And the workers knew what they had won and felt their power. Their union organizing did not rely on the mob or rotten deals with politicians and bosses. They relied on mobilized, class-conscious workers. Their methods not only turned Minneapolis into a union town but organized over-the-road drivers for the first time throughout the old Northwest.

[“Northwest” here does not mean Washington and Oregon, but eleven northern and central Midwestern states in or near the former “Northwest Territory,” from the Dakotas to Missouri, and from Michigan and Ohio to Nebraska. For a full account of the eleven-state organizing campaign (1936–1939), led by the Minneapolis Teamsters, which helped transform the IBT into a mass industrial union, see Farell Dobbs’s four volumes: Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, Teamster Politics, Teamster Bureaucracy.–The Editors]

In the interest of imposing business unionism, in 1941, the IBT bureaucracy under Daniel Tobin, working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the government, the bosses, the police, the courts, and the media crushed the inspiring example of Local 544.

The Consent Decree and Business Unionism

As several witnesses at the trial testified, Ron Carey knew that it was not large sums in the Campaign treasury that would further the revitalization of the IBT and determine the fate of the reform movement in the IBT. It would take member involvement, with the members realizing that they are the union and the union is them. This is the starting point for reversing the current setbacks in the IBT.

Such a consciousness by the membership of their power in their union is, in turn, a small but important step toward understanding that the economy and the government must be under their control too, and not vice versa as exists now. Because no economic and social gains won will ever be secure until, not just the unions, but also the economy and the government are taken over and run by organized workers themselves. Members taking control over their unions is an important first step for any real progress.

As many TDU activists have proposed, the Teamster members themselves, starting at the local level, need to set up their own committees to root out and boot out those who misuse the union’s funds for bloated salaries and benefits. They must open the IBT books and keep them open. This needs to then extend all the way to the top of the union apparatus, which needs to be transformed into an organ of the ranks only.

I would propose that these workers committees also need to investigate the Consent Decree officials — EOs and the IRB members and their entire staffs — who squandered at a least a million in IBT funds to victimize Ron Carey.

Then they need to investigate Judge Edelstein and all the investigators and prosecutors — including Andrew Dember, Deborah Landis, and the Prosecution team who headed up the New York trial against Carey — who squandered public funds to try to frame Carey up on false charges. In addition to abuse of public and union treasuries, these people bribed and coerced witnesses and sabotaged the rights of the IBT members to run their own affairs by unjustly overturning Ron Carey’s 1996 election victory, denying him his union rights.

This does not even take into account the considerable personal costs such a frame-up campaign inflicts on the victim, which all the individuals involved in persecuting him should be held responsible for too. 

Putting these ideas into operation would go along way toward real justice in the Ron Carey case.

Those reformers who abandoned Ron Carey were proven wrong and they should be ashamed of themselves for their opportunist behavior. But, hopefully, Carey’s acquittal will open up a new stage of rank-and-file organizing.