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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 3, 2006

Rutledge's plea deal cuts ties to Unity House

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Aaron Rutledge

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Anthony "Tony" Rutledge

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The long-running federal criminal case against former labor leader Anthony "Tony" Rutledge, dating back to 1997 and scheduled to go trial in July, may be over as soon as this morning under the terms of a new plea agreement that involves no prison time for Rutledge and the prospective payment of more than a million dollars on behalf of Rutledge and his son Aaron, a co-defendant in the case.

The Rutledges agreed to plead guilty to greatly reduced criminal charges yesterday, and the parties in the case swiftly arranged for a sentencing hearing to be held at 10:30 a.m. today before U.S. District Judge David Ezra, who last year rejected a very similar plea bargain proposed by prosecutors from the Justice Department.

The major difference between the old and new plea deals is that Tony Rutledge has agreed to permanently disassociate himself from Unity House Inc., the $42 million nonprofit labor benefits organization that he headed until his latest federal indictment in December 2004. The federal government seized control of Unity House when the indictment was returned and it has been controlled since then by a court-appointed private company.

The original plea deal would have allowed Rutledge to return to Unity House after completing a five-year probation sentence, an arrangement that Ezra said he could not accept.

"This court cannot countenance a defendant pleading guilty to these crimes and then stepping back to a fiduciary responsibility with an organization like Unity House," Ezra said in November.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.