Teamsters union leader Jackie Presser, confident of winning another term as president of the 1.6 million member union next week, appeared today for a bond hearing in the home-town court where he faces racketeering and embezzling charges.
Presser, seeming in an affable mood, waded through a crowd of reporters and photographers on the steps of the old federal courthouse about 9:30 a.m. to surrender to U.S. marshals following his indictment Friday, along with two associates, on charges of engaging in a payroll padding scheme at Teamster Local 507 here.
"What would your reaction be if you were indicted?" Presser responded to a questioner. "All of it will come out in the trial."
U.S. Magistrate Joseph Bartunek, following recommendations from lawyers with the Justice Department's organized crime strike force, set bond for Presser and two co-defendants at $50,000. The personal signature bonds did not require them to post any cash.
During the 45-minute hearing, Bartunek ordered the three to surrender their passports. Presser was told he could travel on union business in the United States as long as he gives the court 24-hour advance notice of his itinerary.
Appearing with Presser, the secretary-treasurer of Local 507, were Harold Friedman, president of Local 507 and Bakery Workers Local 19, and Anthony Hughes, Local 507's recording secretary and Local 19's business agent.
John R. Climaco, Teamster general counsel and Presser's personal lawyer, criticized the charges, saying that they were "finally filed five years after it [the investigation] started and already has been rejected twice."
He apparently was referring to the Justice Department's controversial decision last summer not to indict Presser. That decision led to dropped charges against two men already convicted of receiving Teamster paychecks without working.
According to a Senate subcommittee report, the department made the decision after Climaco claimed that Presser had been an FBI informer with bureau permission to pay "ghost employes" at Local 507.
The report said Climaco, Presser and Hughes met with FBI agent Robert S. Friedrick last summer in strategy sessions. Climaco walked away when asked today if he had met with the agent.
Friedrick was indicted this week in Washington on five counts of making false statements.
The indictment said the FBI agent acted "to avert the indictment of Presser in Cleveland," but it gave no indication why he would have taken part in such a scheme.
In the racketeering charges, Presser is accused of the alleged embezzlement of more than $700,000 in union funds. He and his co-defendents face up to 20 years in prison, $25,000 in fines and forfeiture of their union offices if convicted of the racketeering charges.