Federal judge says his directive to increase staffing in union prosecution was a wish, not an order

A federal judge in Pennsylvania said Thursday he was only expressing a wish—and not giving an order—when he told the U.S. Attorney’s office to assign additional prosecutors in a racketeering case against union members.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson appeared conciliatory when he spoke with U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and top deputies on Thursday, report the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Last month, Baylson had told an assistant U.S. attorney that the decision to send just one prosecutor to court was “unacceptable” and he was going to “insist, require” that two more lawyers be added to the case, the stories say.

“I can order the government to do certain things, and that’s what I’m doing,” Baylson said at the March 13 hearing.

On Thursday, Baylson “quickly backpedaled,” according to the Inquirer account. “I was expressing a wish or a desire, not a formal court order,” Baylson said.

Prosecutors are accusing 10 members of Ironworkers Local 401 of engaging in a multiyear campaign to secure jobs with contractors through extortion, sabotage and harassment. Eight of the defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy.

At the March hearing, Baylson said he knows through his experience as a former U.S. attorney that more prosecutors are needed in a case involving hundreds of taped phone conversations and more than 160 boxes of documents.

Memeger told Baylson on Thursday that his staffing decision in the case may be affected if all 10 defendants go to trial.

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