A U.S. District Judge in Detroit sentenced former UAW President Dennis Williams to 21 months in prison plus a year of supervised release and $10,000 fine for a charge of conspiracy to embezzle union funds.
Williams already pleaded guilty to the charge and the federal sentencing guidelines called for a prison sentence of 18 months to 24 months, but Williams’ lawyer, Tara Reynolds asked for a reduced sentence of one year and one day. Williams also made restitution to the UAW in the amount of $133,000 and paid another $15,400 in back taxes on the money improperly taken from the UAW.
He becomes the highest-ranking UAW officer ever sentenced to prison for misconduct in the UAW history. The $10,000 fine imposed by Judge Paul Borman is in addition to the restitution Williams is making out of his own pocket.
Williams a pariah with union members
However, during the “victim-impact” portion of the hearing, Steve Cares, the assistant U.S. District Attorney representing the government, read from letters by UAW members which expressed deep-seated anger about Williams’ actions while he served as the union’s top elected official from 2014 to 2018. Previously, he held the union’s second-highest office, Secretary-Treasurer, from 2010 to 2014.
The money he spent to promote his lavish lifestyle should have been spent to serve the UAW members he was elected to represent, Cares said, reading from the letter. Union members trusted him to use his influence for them and instead he made it harder for the UAW to use and to grow it influence, he added.
Cares also noted that Williams still continues to maintain the embezzlement was orchestrated by his successor as UAW President, Gary Jones, who is scheduled to sentenced for his part in the conspiracy next month, rather than accept full responsibility for his actions.
Still shifting blame
Williams, when asked to speak from a San Diego courtroom during the hearing conducted via Zoom, said he regretted not asking more questions and said the scandal that engulfed him has destroyed his reputation as well as his connection to the UAW, which he first joined in 1977.
The embezzlement is the only blemish on a life that included service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He noted during his tenure as one of the UAW’s top officers he succeeded in balancing the union’s budget, expanding its membership and negotiating the end of the controversial “two-tier” wage scale.
In imposing his sentence, Borman acknowledged Williams came up the “tough way” to serve as the union’s top officer but “there was a need to recognize the seriousness of the offense.”