A former United Auto Workers official from Missouri was sentenced to one year in prison despite federal prosecutors asking for no jail time due the cooperation he provided to investigators probing corruption within the UAW.
David Gardey, the assistant U.S. attorney responsible for public corruption case in the Eastern District of Michigan, said during a Zoom hearing that the defendant, Edward “Nick” Robinson, came forward on his own, offering to help federal investigators with the investigation of the UAW.
Robinson pointed federal investigators to substantial pieces of evidence that could have taken months to uncover without his assistance, according to Gardey.
Gardey told Judge Paul Borman that Robinson’s cooperation led directly to charges being filed against two former presidents of the UAW, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones, as well another leader of the UAW, who was based outside of St. Louis. Moreover, Robinson’s assistance was “truthful and sincere,” Gardey added.
Robinson also helped investigators by agreeing to record telephone calls and by wearing a wire to help other defendants in criminal investigations, often for long periods of time, on 10 separate occasions, the defendant’s lawyer noted. At one point, Robinson had to lift up his shirt” to prove to his corrupt colleagues he was not wearing a wire in their meetings.
During his months of cooperation, which stretched on for nearly a year and added an entirely new dimension to the federal probe, Robinson also provided the names of employees from hotels and resorts in Palm Springs and San Diego, California, as well as Missouri, Gardey said, filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle investigators assembled of the misconduct by the union’s top officers, including Jones and Williams.
Robinson’s actions sped up the course of the investigation and helped prosecutors put in place the settlement with the UAW that will lead to reform and greater oversight, Gardey said.
Judge Borman, however, observed that federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 30 and 37 months and Robinson had willingly participated in the conspiracy to defraud union members of dues money and political contributions for a period of nine years.
Consequently, he set aside the prosecutor’s request for no jail time, but he did reduce the amount of time Robinson
will have to serve in prison to 12 months. Borman noted in practical terms Robinson will serve only about 10 months. The judge also recommended that Robinson be held at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota, due to his ill health. Robinson also doesn’t have to report to prison until August because of the spread of COVID-19 through the federal prison system.
Robinson did not hold an elected office in the union but had been appointed director of the UAW’s Community Action Program, or CAP, in Region 5. The CAP acts as the union’s political action committee and directs cash and in-kind support to UAW-favored candidates.
Region 5, before it was disbanded by the UAW, was responsible for the western portion of the United States, meaning Robinson administered the union’s political spending in area reaching from the Mississippi River west.
The union has said the disbanded the region because of declining membership in the area for which it was responsible. Robinson, however, will have to give back $300,000 he stole from the UAW as restitution.
The union declined to comment on whether the conspiracy to steal union funds had any impact on the UAW’s political activity. But key races in which the diversion could have been felt included the U.S. Senate race in Missouri where incumbent Claire McCaskill, a Democrat backed by the UAW was defeated by Josh Hawley, the Republican challenger, who is now being criticized for promoting lies about the 2020 Presidential election propagated by former President Donald Trump and white supremacists among others.
The UAW said in a statement that Robinson’s punishment fit the crime.
“Today’s sentence of former UAW member Nick Robinson is appropriate. Mr. Robinson’s crimes violate everything we stand for as a union. His cooperation with the government, while noteworthy, does not excuse his blatant disregard for the oath he took to serve the women and men he previously represented,” the statement said.
Brian Rothenberg, UAW communications director, said, “UAW President Rory Gamble, the UAW and our Board continue to focus on reviewing and strengthening the union’s financial and ethical policies and internal controls.”