Pens and Needles

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Prosecutors in his case told U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas about five named lawyers who were prepared to testify that Babineaux had solicited money from them or received payments. They were Robert Pierce and Lou Ramond of Pittsburgh, Joel Alexander of Birmingham, and Houston attorneys Rodney Steinburg and Tommy Ray Ledbetter.

In one filing of planned evidence for trial, prosecutors say that Babineaux asked for $25,000 from Ledbetter in 1995, as "campaign expenses" for then-president Little. "When Ledbetter refused, the defendant stated that one day Mr. Ledbetter might look around and see that he did not have as many union cases anymore," the court document states. Alexander was told to pay $15,000 and if Little was elected, he'd be on the designated counsel list.

However, Saper says it is "more than a little unusual" that attorneys called to the grand jury were all given immunity, even before investigators had inquired about their information. Those knowledgeable about the probe say the immunity grants were necessary to gain evidence against the union bosses, and such tactics are common in efforts to penetrate criminal conspiracies.

"It just seems strange to me that the people who stood to make the most money are the ones who aren't indicted," Saper says. Unlike the union officials who are threatened with prison, "the rich designated legal counsel are going home scot-free to make more millions."

Those are only some of the deals surrounding this investigation. Bieganowski testified that he invested about $200,000 of his own money and time to help the government make the union case.

Bieganowski walked away from his stormy sentencing hearing with a 30-month sentence, along with orders to pay restitution of about $375,000. In fact, he is now scheduled to be released from a prison unit by next week. Gallagher says the controversies surrounding Bieganowski are public record and fair game for cross-examination.

"I look forward to these issues being litigated," he says. "Mr. Bieganowski is a very small piece of a very large pie of evidence."

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George Flynn
Contact: George Flynn