March 15, 2000
Ex-Teamsters Official Sentenced to 3 Years
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
T he former political director of the Teamsters union was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday after being convicted of taking part in a scheme to siphon union money into the 1996 campaign of the
Teamsters' former president, Ron Carey.
Judge Thomas P. Griesa of Federal District Court in Manhattan ordered the sentence for William Hamilton, the ex-official, after he concluded that decades of public service by Mr. Hamilton justified ordering a prison term somewhat less than called for by federal guidelines. The sentencing guidelines recommend 46 months to 57 months in prison.
In November, a federal jury convicted Mr. Hamilton on six counts, punishable by up to five years each, for helping steer $885,000 in Teamsters money to liberal groups as part of a scheme in which donors to those groups later contributed to Mr. Carey's campaign. Federal monitors overturned Mr. Carey's 1996 victory over James P. Hoffa because of the campaign finance fraud, and Mr. Hoffa has since won a rerun election for the union's presidency.
For close to an hour, Mr. Hamilton's lawyer, G. Robert Gage Jr., implored the judge to depart from the sentencing guidelines as he emphasized that Mr. Hamilton had not benefited financially from the embezzlement, had parents who were ill and elderly and had spent decades working in public service.
Mr. Hamilton led civil rights demonstrations as a student at the University of Texas, was a top aide to former Senator Ralph Yarborough of Texas, headed Planned Parenthood's Washington office and was chief of staff at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
"This for me has been degrading and humiliating," Mr. Hamilton said in brief, somber remarks, as his two grown children looked on. "I am deeply ashamed and angry at myself that it has come to this."
Mr. Hamilton said he had such bad memories of the Teamsters when it was mob-infested and led by Mr. Hoffa's father, James R. Hoffa, that he was desperately eager to ensure that Mr. Hoffa lost to Mr. Carey, whom Mr. Hamilton said he viewed as an honest reformer.
"We didn't want to see the union go back to the days of corruption," he said. "Sometimes you want to do something so deeply, you do something dumb -- you cross the line." He added, "I had the best of intentions."
Emphasizing the seriousness of the crime, Judge Griesa said: "It was a large embezzlement. It was not merely the loss of $885,000 to the Teamsters, it was conduct which had a very damaging effect on the union."
But he said he was lightening the sentence for one reason: Mr. Hamilton's public service.
"He has indeed led an exemplary life," the judge said, except for the 1996 campaign-finance scheme.
Six people have been convicted in the campaign scheme. Mr. Hamilton
was the first to receive a prison term. One other defendant was sentenced
to probation, while four others have not been sentenced.