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Wearing wires put convicted UAW official 'at risk,' lawyer says


Breana Noble   | The Detroit News

Wearing wires in meetings with United Auto Workers leaders put a convicted former union official "at risk," according to a federal court filing from Edward "Nick" Robinson's lawyer Wednesday requesting that he serve probation instead of time in jail.

Robinson, an aide to former UAW President Gary Jones, cooperated with federal investigators to record meetings and phone conversations, according to the memorandum confirming a November 2019 Detroit News report

The contents of those recordings were used as evidence in a years-long probe that has resulted in 15 convictions, including two former UAW presidents, and prompted a settlement between the union and the federal government that includes six years of oversight and the opportunity for members to institute direct elections of leaders.

Robinson, 73, of Kirkwood, Missouri, in March pleaded guilty to embezzling union funds and splitting the money with Jones. He faces up to five years in federal prison after admitting he conspired with at least six other UAW officials to embezzle more than $1 million since 2010 and spent the money on personal luxuries such as Palm Spring, California, villas, golf trips, and more than $60,000 in cigars. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 27 after several delays.

"Nick, a clear nonexpert, went into meetings and conversations with the highest-ranking officials of the UAW wearing wires to capture everything that was said," Robinson's attorney, James Martin, wrote. "Moreover, not only did he do this once, but on four different occasions Nick continued to take an active role, putting himself at risk in order to assist the Government.

"Though he did not obtain direct evidence on each of them, he is indisputably the domino that brought a large group of crooked individuals down, including two UAW Presidents."

Robinson approached the federal government before agents came to him, Martin wrote, calling it a sign of remorse. The personal risk of Robinson's actions in doing what agents requested was "indisputable," his lawyer noted, adding one of the targets asked if he was wearing a wire and made him pull up his shirt. He also recorded approximately 20 phone calls, he wrote.

Former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden, a Democrat, offered a brief letter in support of Robinson: "I applaud Nick's commitment to cooperate with the investigation in this case. In all of my interactions with Nick, I always found him to be a strong advocate for the interests of the UAW men and women members."

Robinson's military service, his and his wife's health issues and the financial repercussions of the case were cited in the request for leniency. Robinson has chronic heart disease, bypass heart surgery, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low blood platelets, kidney stones and back pain requiring routine cortisone shots, according to the filing that noted incarceration puts Robinson at risk amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robinson agreed to pay $42,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and an unspecified amount of additional restitution. His sentencing date has been delayed several times due to the pandemic.

"Mr. Robinson will stand before the Court a humbled man," Martin wrote, "with great regret and remorse for his actions which bring him before the Court."

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble