No good deed ever goes unpunished.
Mike Hudson, editor of the Niagara Falls Reporter, is fighting a U.S. District Court order to turn over notes, files, and other reporting resources he may possess from his investigation of – and, as some say – his expose – of the criminal enterprise known formerly as the Laborers International Union of North America Local 91.
It was Hudson who first published information which led to seven guilty pleas by former members of the allegedly “Mafia-run” laborers union.
The demand for Hudson’s notes is not coming from the prosecution, but from defense attorney Joseph LaTona --who represents Joel Cicero, a former union official, and one of four awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges.
Hudson was subpoenaed and ordered to hand over his materials by Sept. 9, 2005, but has not complied.
On Jan. 4, 2006, Hudson’s attorney, David Jay filed a motion to quash the subpoena, demanding the defense establish the relevancy of the Reporter’s material. A hearing is set for Feb. 16.
While LaTona did not specifically say what he hopes to glean from Hudson’s notes, he did indicate that comments made by Joseph Aragon, a business owner who accused the union of pressuring him to shut down his pizzeria, might help his client.
The battle for notes has cost Hudson thousands in legal fees and lost time, Hudson said.
“It is a form of harassment."
It is not, it seems, the first time he was harassed directly or indirectly by the union.
Before the indictments came, Hudson was regularly pounding out stories and editorials, calling local 91 a "goon squad," and LaTona’s client, Joel Cicero, "a henchman."
One evening, three members of the union followed Hudson into a restroom of the former Niagara Falls Convention Center (now the Seneca- Niagara Casino) and smashed his head, face first, into a urinal—breaking and, ultimately, permanently altering the shape of his nose.
Following the police report, Hudson had to make another reporting decision:
“Either I had to pack my bags and get out of Niagara Falls, or I had to stay and write more -- much more-- about the union. It was one or the other.”
Hudson, opting the latter, redoubled his efforts, and in the following months published more than 100 stories until everyone in town was talking about the injustice of a laborer’s union whose main enterprise was to strong-arm residents and extort businesses.
Then the indictments came; the management of the union came under federal oversight; and the decades- old and sinister influence of the mob- controlled union was smashed forever.
However, for Hudson, the battle is not over.
If his motion to quash the subpoena fails, and he continues to refuse to turn over the documents, he may face contempt charges.
“My mother thinks my nose looks much better after they broke it,” he said in answer to the question of what he will do if his motion fails.
How much better Niagara Falls looks – after her son broke the mob is, of course, a matter of opinion.
One long-time construction worker and union member opined, “Mike Hudson gave freedom to construction businesses in Niagara Falls. Before him, local 91 controlled every aspect of what got done, who got what, and who got paid in the Falls.”
Hudson’s good deeds, we hope will not result in further punishment for him – but, rather, perhaps, ideally, in proper and swift punishment for the “goon squad” –the former “henchmen” of the Laborers International Union of North America Local 91.