Guilty UAW boss Ashton sentencing bid shrouded in secrecy

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former United Auto Workers Vice President Joe Ashton is making a private push to minimize a likely prison sentence for his role in a union bribery and kickback scandal.

Ashton, 71, of Ocean View, N.J., won approval Wednesday to file a sealed sentencing memorandum in federal court, a document designed to influence U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman and argue for a favorable sentence.

Joe Ashton

The judge Wednesday allowed the memo to be sealed “due to the nature of the personal disabilities and medical information contained in the sentencing memorandum concerning Joseph Ashton and Denise Ashton, his wife,” according to a court filing.

Ashton, who also served on the board of General Motors Co., is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. He is one of the most senior UAW officials embroiled in a corruption scandal that has led to 13 convictions of union leaders and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives. The three-year prosecution has revealed labor leaders and auto executives broke federal labor laws, stole union funds and received bribes.

Federal prosecutors are expected to file their own sentencing memo before Tuesday.

He pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The crimes carry a maximum penalty of up to 20 years and 10 years, respectively.

The government's recommended sentence is 30-37 months.

As part of his conviction, Ashton will forfeit $250,000.

Ashton, who retired from the UAW in 2014, was appointed as the union's representative on the board of GM.

He was charged in November, three months after The Detroit News identified him as the unnamed union official accused in a federal criminal complaint of demanding $550,000 in kickbacks and bribes from vendors.

In return, a list of vendors that included Ashton's personal chiropractor received contracts to produce more than $15.8 million worth of union-branded trinkets, including backpacks, jackets and 58,000 commemorative watches.

The watches were supposed to be distributed to UAW members. Instead, prosecutors said the watches were never distributed and are being stored in a warehouse at a union training center.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews