Opulence and Automakers: With Sentencing Looming, Former UAW Veep's Lawyer Tries the Titanic Defense
Ahead of an August 5th sentencing date, federal prosecutors hoping make an example of former UAW vice-president Norwood Jewell (seen above, on the left) rolled out a raft of visual evidence to back up their case for a jail term.
Jewell was not the “Miller Lite kind of guy” his legal defense wished to portray; rather, the former head of UAW’s Fiat Chrysler division made gluttonous use of FCA funds earmarked for the two groups’ joint training center, prosecutors argued. Jewell was all too happy to accept the financial grease FCA poured on its labor wheels, they added. He wanted to be a “big shot,” and FCA made sure he lived the life of a touring rapper.
Photos of the roughly $95,000 in gifts which flowed from FCA to Jewell were on display in Detroit Tuesday, part of prosecutors’ attempt to land Jewell in prison for a period of 12 to 18 months, The Detroit News reports.
As FCA attempts to settle its way out of a federal investigation into labor law violations, Jewell’s attorney (named — quite remarkably — Michael Manley) argued that his client, who pleaded guilty in April, was a victim of the culture that surrounded him. Essentially, Manley argued that gifts and bribes were the norm, with Jewell, whose own home and vehicle were of modest standing, was just along for the ride.
Manley compared Jewell to the captain of the White Star liner Titanic, which sailed through an ice field at dangerous speeds in 1912, ultimately leading to the death of over 1,500 people. An interesting choice of comparisons.
In the federal sentencing memorandum, Manley states, “How could … Norwood Jewell become the face of union corruption? Much the same way a seasoned ship captain like Edward Smith can become the face of heedless seamanship. Culture.”
In turn, prosecutors displayed photos of lavish gifts purchased with FCA cash, including a now-infamous Beretta over-under shotgun ($2,182), a $8,927 stint in a Palm Springs villa, another SoCal villa paid for with FCA money, and an opulent $25,000 party that featured rare vintages and beautiful women lighting the cigars of union brass.
Never has a stereotype come to life so accurately.
“Instead of seizing the opportunity to zealously and honorably represent the interests of the union’s members and their families, Jewell chose to serve his own interests and to live the life of a big shot and fat cat,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey wrote in the memo.
Next week’s sentencing is the job of U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. While other UAW and FCA figures have already had their fates decided in court, Jewell is the highest ranking union official ensnared in the long-running conspiracy between executives at FCA and the UAW.
[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]
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