Francis C. DeBrouse, the former local Teamsters union leader on trial in federal court here, was portrayed today as either the victim of antiunion bias on the part of prosecutors or a man who used his position to practice a subtle form of extortion.
The former characterization came in closing arguments from defense attorney Albert J. Ahern. As the six-week trial drew to a close he told the jury that despite massive effort expended during a two-year investigation, the federal prosecutors had failed to prove the labor racketeering, extortion and tax fraud charges against DeBrouse.
In the prosecution's summation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Rohrbaugh told the jury that DeBrouse used the presidency of the nearly 8,000-member Washington Teamsters Local 639 to obtain goods and services from companies where Teamster drives worked. He said these included a $280,000 house, $7,000 worth of carpeting, a tennis court and other items.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday.
DeBrouse's attorney pictured him as a tough negotiator who rose through the ranks of the Teamsters and won increased benefits for union members.
"For two and half years they've been subpoenaing everything but the Washington Monument" in an effort to get DeBrouse, said defense attorey Jack Stevens in reference to the U.S. attorney's office here.
"Frank DeBrouse is used to coming on hard and coming on strong," Stevens told the jury, and perhaps some of the people he dealt with "weren't used to dealing with a man among men."
"You must find the evidence that he intended to extort," Stevens said, "and the evidence is not there."
Prosecutor Rohrbaugh told the jury DeBrouse was the kind of man who, when he tipped his hat, "everybody dropped things into it."
"Eighteen witnesses [who testified against DeBrouse] have to be wrong if you believe Frank DeBrouse." Said Rohrbaugh. "Is Mr. DeBrouse the ship of truth in a sea of lies?" he asked. "Are all these witnesses out to get him? Is the government out to get him?"
In the case of Giant Food Inc., which is alleged to have provided the carpeting and $19,000 worth of architectural services to the former Teamsters leader, DeBrouse "did not have to say to anybody, "If you don't do something for me I'll break your arms,'" Rohrbaugh said.
DeBrouse knew which companies were vulverable to the threat of labor disruption by the Teamsters, Rohrbaugh said, "and everything he asked for he was given."
"The law says a man like DeBrouse can't use his office to gain things for himself corruptly . . . . or to shake down employers," Rohrbaugh argued. "This is the activity that can't be tolerated," he said.