Gary Rodrigues and his daughter, Robin Rodrigues Sabatini, don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.” In their case, that’s not such an admirable trait. Back in 2002, the two were convicted in federal court on nearly 200 charges of criminal misconduct, including embezzlement, mail fraud and money-laundering, in connection with the disappearance of nearly $380,000 from the United Public Workers (UPW). Rodrigues, 65, had been state director of the Honolulu-based union, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Sabatini was a union contractor. This past June, a federal appeals court in Hawaii affirmed the decision and prison sentences. But the pair is pulling out all the stops to avoid their fate. Now the court is signaling that its patience is limited.
On October 31, U.S. Circuit Court Judge David A. Ezra gave the convicted pair until January 7 to begin serving their sentences, rejecting arguments by Rodrigues’ lawyers to reduce his sentence from 60 months to 33 months (the daughter got 46 months). The evidence, argued Judge Ezra, “was overwhelming and sufficient to find beyond a reasonable doubt that (Rodrigues) engaged in abusing a position of public trust, obstructed justice and laundered…money.” Federal prosecutors had argued that Mr. Rodrigues’ behavior had taken place “over a long period of time,” was “carefully crafted to avoid getting caught” and “lined the pockets” of him and his daughter. The complaints pertained to payments made since 1992 from the union to Sabatini’s two companies for nonexistent work, and Rodrigues’ acceptance of kickbacks in connection with an ERISA-covered union benefit plan.
As far as the defendants are concerned, the battle isn’t over. Union Corruption Update reported three months ago that father and daughter were planning to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. They apparently weren’t joking. Doron Weinberg, Rodrigues’ San Francisco-based attorney, confirmed that the pair was in the process of petitioning the High Court on grounds that their convictions were based on violations of constitutional rights. “As his lawyer and someone who studied the case for six to seven years now, I’m absolutely confident that he never misappropriated a penny from the UPW or its members and never committed any of the crimes for which he was convicted,” Weinberg said. So far, that claim hasn’t won over too many skeptics. (Associated Press, 11/14/07; other sources).