Friday, July 6, 1990

Ex-Union Official Convicted of Racketeering

Published: July 6, 1990

A former carpenters union official in New York City who was the central figure in an assault case against John Gotti has been convicted of labor racketeering and sentenced to a prison term of one to three years.

After months of plea bargaining with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's office, the union official, John F. O'Connor, pleaded guilty to reduced charges on Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Mr. O'Connor, who was indicted in 1987 in a 127-count indictment stemming from seven felony and five misdemeanor charges, pleaded guilty to five counts.

Mr. O'Connor, who is 54 years old and lives in Brewster in Dutchess County, had been the business manager and chief executive of Local 608 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in Manhattan. Upon accepting the plea, Dorothy Cropper, an acting State Supreme Court justice, ordered Mr. O'Connor to surrender today to begin serving his sentence. He was also fined $25,000.
Wrecking of a Restaurant

Mr. Gotti, who law-enforcement officials say is the boss of the Gambino organized-crime family, was acquitted last February on state charges that he had ordered the shooting and wounding of Mr. O'Connor in 1986. Prosecutors contended that the shooting was in retaliation for the wrecking by members of Local 608 of a restaurant owned by associates in the Gambino family.

One of the charges that was dropped in the plea bargaining with Mr. O'Connor was a charge that he had directed aides to damage the restaurant, Bankers and Brokers, in Battery Park City.

The chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office Investigations Division, Michael Cherkasky, said yesterday that he was disappointed in the term given to Mr. O'Connor. ''We don't think it was adequate, but we would have had no stronger leverage for a longer term even if he was convicted of all counts at a trial,'' he said.

Mr. Cherkasky noted that the conviction of Mr. O'Connor had resulted in the first prison sentence in 20 years for a union official convicted on state felony charges.

'Very Pleased'
Mr. O'Connor's lawyer, James M. LaRossa, said that Mr. O'Connor was ''very pleased with the result'' and that he hoped that through a work-release program he would be released from prison in less than one year.

In a separate trial, Justice Cropper yesterday found Martin Forde, a Local 608 business agent, guilty of two counts of bribe receiving. Mr. Forde had waived his right to a jury trial. The prosecutor in the case, Robert A. Mass, said Mr. Forde was to be sentenced on Aug. 31 and faces a maximum prison term of seven years.

Mr. O'Connor, Mr. Forde and three other carpenters union officials were indicted in 1987 after state investigators said they had uncovered widespread corruption and racketeering by carpenters union officials in New York City who had ties to organized-crime groups.