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Tony Boyle Trial: 1974

Boyle Balks On Arraignment

On December 20, U.S. marshals attempted to bring Boyle to Pennsylvania for arraignment. Boyle refused to leave his bed and fainted when the marshals tried to force him to his feet. The marshals returned the next day and physically removed the furious old man from his bed. They flew him to Pennsylvania, where he was formally charged, sitting in a wheelchair and still wearing his hospital pajamas. Boyle pleaded not guilty and was sent on his way to a Missouri federal prison to begin his sentence for election fraud.

A change of venue brought Boyle's trial into an eastern Pennsylvania court, far from the coal field region where the Yablonskis had lived, with Judge Francis J. Catania presiding. When the trial began in the spring of 1974, Boyle's attorney, Charles F. Moses, tried to stanch the testimony creeping toward his client by suggesting that Prater and Huddleston had killed Yablonski to hide their embezzlement of union funds.

Testimony by the same witnesses who had appeared at earlier trials laid out the prosecution's case. The chain now extended from the triggermen to Prater, who said that Boyle had visited him in prison and told him to "stick to your story, even if you are convicted."

Even more striking than the now-familiar machinery of the plot was a new witness directly linking Boyle to the murders. The FBI had arrested and secured the cooperation of UMW official William Turnblazer, who recalled standing in a hallway outside the UMW, executive boardroom with Boyle and Pass on June 23, 1969, six months before the union election.

"We're in a fight," Turnblazer quoted Boyle as saying. "We've got to kill Yablonski or take care of him."

Pass, Turnblazer testified, accepted the job. Turnblazer also explained that Pass gave him printed minutes of an executive board meeting at which the "R&I" group was discussed, thus fraudulently documenting the existence of the bogus committee formed to pay for the murders.

On the stand, Tony Boyle protested that he had authorized the union to offer a $50,000 reward for the conviction of the killers of his "very close friend" Yablonski. Boyle claimed that he had seen Prater in prison only at the urging of Prater's attorney, H. David Rothman, who was concerned about his client's health. Boyle recalled that both his own lawyer and Rothman were present during the encounter, which took place outside Prater's cell and lasted less than 10 minutes.

Boyle denied ever seeing the minutes discussing the R&I committee. He denied meeting Turnblazer and Pass in the corridor outside the executive board room after the June 23 meeting, when the order to kill was allegedly given. When Boyle stepped down, three former UMW board members testified that Boyle left the meeting by a side door that night and had never even entered the hallway.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Tony Boyle Trial: 1974 - Annette Gilly Confesses, Boyle Balks On Arraignment, Boyle's Secretary Spoils Defense