1964: Jimmy Hoffa Sentenced for Jury Tampering

On March 12, 1964, Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa was sentenced to eight years in prison for jury tampering. He lost control of the union during his incarceration and disappeared in 1975 as he was trying to regain power.

Jimmy Hoffa Sentenced on Bribery Charges

Jimmy Hoffa was a skilled and ruthless union organizer who rose through the ranks of the Teamsters union in the 1940s and ’50s.

In 1957, the Senate Labor Rackets Committee targeted the Teamsters for corruption. Teamsters president Dave Beck repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, but Hoffa, then the vice president, engaged in several contentious and memorable exchanges with chief counsel Robert F. Kennedy. The performance endeared him to Teamsters members, who voted him president later that year, but it also made him a target of the Justice Department.

Under Hoffa’s leadership, the Teamsters grew into the largest and most powerful union in the country. But he faced frequent allegations that he had ties to organized crime and that he used bribes, kickbacks and intimidation. The Justice Department, which had been led since 1960 by Attorney General Kennedy, took Hoffa to federal court four times before they finally gained a conviction in 1964.

Hoffa was convicted on two counts of jury tampering, which he committed during a 1962 case that charged him with extorting a million-dollar union payoff from a haulage company. He received an eight-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine. Later that year, he was convicted of fraud in a separate case, receiving another five years.

Hoffa entered a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1967 after his appeals had run out. He served just four years of his 13-year sentence, as President Richard Nixon issued a pardon in 1971 on the condition that he “not engage in direct or indirect management of any labor organization” until 1980. Hoffa sought to have Nixon’s restrictions overturned.

Hoffa’s Disappearance

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappeared after reportedly meeting Detroit mobster Anthony Giacalone and New Jersey Teamsters official Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano at the upscale Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. He was never seen again and pronounced legally dead in 1982.

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What Happened to Jimmy Hoffa?

While there have been theories that Hoffa faked his own death, it is more likely that he was murdered. There are many suspects with ties to organized crime and motives for killing Hoffa, but the case remains unsolved.

Many people believe he was killed by supporters of Hoffa’s handpicked replacement at the union, Frank Fitzsimmons. This includes Provenzano, who reportedly was in line for a promotion from Fitzsimmons. Provenzano was a former ally of Hoffa, but the two had become adversarial while serving time together in Lewisburg. Dan E. Moldea, author of the 1978 book “The Hoffa Wars,” believes that Provenzano henchman Salvatore Briguglio pulled the trigger.

Another suspect is Charles O’Brien, who was virtually an adopted son of Hoffa. According to a 1975 Time article, “Hoffa’s family considers O’Brien to be a turncoat, claiming that he made a separate peace with Fitzsimmons.” He also had a close relationship with Giacalone.

Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, president of a Delaware Teamsters union and a hitman who worked for Hoffa, claims that he killed Hoffa. In Charles Brandt’s biography of Sheeran, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Sheeran claims that mob leaders were worried that Hoffa would give information to the Justice Department in exchange for the lifting of Nixon’s restrictions. Sheeran said that Hoffa trusted him, which gave him the chance to carry out the hit at the behest of Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino.

Hoffa’s body has never been found, despite many searches over the last 35 years. According to a popular urban legend, he was buried beneath the field of the now-demolished Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The CBC lists the many other suspected resting places.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a number of files, released through the Freedom of Information Act, on Hoffa and his disappearance.

Reference: The Teamsters

The International Brotherhood of the Teamsters is one of the biggest unions in the country. Jimmy Hoffa’s son, James P. Hoffa, is the current president.