Gregory J. Pagano

By P.J. D’Annunzio

Law360 (April 16, 2024, 4:32 PM EDT) — The only thing standing between ex-Philly union leader John Dougherty and a third conviction is attorney Greg Pagano, and he feels confident going into the next trial that things will be different.

For one thing, Pagano says the third trial – dealing with extortion charges – is smaller in scope than the previous trial over embezzlement of funds from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98.

“There’s far less discovery in this case than the last case,” Dougherty said in an interview with Law360 on the eve of the trial. In that case Pagano asked U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl to push the trial back, so he could go over the multitudinous discovery in the case.

“There were literally millions of pages of discovery,” Pagano said.

Dougherty has been in federal court since 2019, facing an array of criminal charges stemming from two prosecutions, the first of which was so vast it had to be split into two trials. In the first case, he was convicted of bribing former City Councilman Bobby Henon to advance the union’s agenda. Pagano did not represent him then.

The next trial saw him and other former Local 98 members convicted of an embezzlement conspiracy in which “Johnny Doc” used union money for everything from home repairs to expensive suits to lavish meals. Dougherty, who parted ways with his former Ballard Spahr LLP counsel, was represented prior to trial by court-appointed lawyers because of financial problems.

Dougherty came into some money by winning an insurance case, and hired Pagano to handle the second trial.

The extortion case was also pushed back so the parties could have time to get ready. To Pagano, preparation is everything, and leaving matters to others is not preferable.

“You have to know the case, you have to go over everything, you have to listen to all the Title III wiretaps, you have to read all the transcripts,” he said. “There’s no substitute for preparation and no substitute for doing it yourself.”

The case Pagano is preparing to defend entails allegations that Dougherty’s nephew Gregory Fiocca, a Local 98 member, attacked his job site manager for not being paid after frequent absences from work. Prosecutors allege that Dougherty threatened to pull union workers from the job if the manager did not pay Fiocca.

One key difference in this case is that the government does not have wiretap evidence, Pagano said.

“I suspect there will be text messages that will be introduced by both parties, but they were not obtained through any court orders or warrants; they were recovered through consent of the parties,” Pagano said.

Pagano would not say whether the differences between the extortion case and the two previous trials warrant a shift in strategy.

“I don’t like to talk about cases that haven’t been tried. My philosophy is that cases should be tried in the courtroom and not in the media,” he said. “But I’m prepared, and I’m ready to go, and I’m confident that we have a very good defense.”

Pagano graduated from law school in 1993 and spent two years clerking for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Anthony J. DeFino. He began his criminal defense practice in 1995.

He has represented everyone from police officers to a former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge to an alleged war criminal. Interacting with his peers in those cases made him a better lawyer, he said.

“I think having worked with other lawyers in those cases, older and more experienced, it helped me tremendously in terms of learning how to try cases,” he said. “In those cases, I’ve worked with who I would say are probably some of the best criminal defense lawyers, not only in the region but in the country.”

Dougherty’s third trial begins Wednesday morning at the federal courthouse in Reading. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment for this story.

Dougherty is represented by Gregory J. Pagano and Henry M. George of the Law Offices of Gregory J. Pagano PC.

The government is represented by Jacqueline C. Romero, Bea Witzleben, Frank Costello, Anthony Carissimi and Jason D. Grenell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The case is U.S. v. Dougherty et al., case number 2:21-cr-00065, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

–Editing by Peter Rozovsky.