Tony Boyle Trial: 1974
Annette Gilly Confesses, Boyle Balks On Arraignment, Boyle's Secretary Spoils Defense
Defendant: W.A. Boyle
Crime Charged: First-degree murder
Chief Defense Attorney: Charles F. Moses
Chief Prosecutor: Richard A. Sprague
Judge: Francis J. Catania
Place: Media, Pennsylvania
Dates of Trial: March 25-April 11, 1974
Sentence: 3 consecutive terms of life imprisonment
SIGNIFICANCE: Successful prosecutions of those responsible for the death of Jock Yablonski revealed that his murder had been ordered by the president of his own union and paid for with union funds.
No one assumed that the struggle for leadership of the United Mine Workers of America ended when incumbent President W.A. "Tony" Boyle defeated Joseph "Jock" Yablonski in the bitter December 1969 union election. The reform-minded Yablonski planned to take evidence of massive election fraud to the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Although he would later claim that the challenger was his "very close friend," Boyle and the hierarchy of the powerful union openly hated Yablonski.
In the New Year's Eve darkness of December 31, 1969, Yablonski, his wife, and their daughter were shot to death in their Clarksville, Pennsylvania home. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) entered the case on the premise that the killings might be related to Yablonski's union activity, thus making the murders a federal crime. A tip led them quickly to the gunmen: Paul Gilly, Claude Vealey, and Aubran "Buddy" Martin. Gilly's wife Annette was arrested soon. So was her father, Silous Huddleston, the president of a UMW district local.
There was no initial evidence to support a hunch that higher union officials were involved. State prosecutor Richard A. Sprague methodically tried the captured killers one by one, allowing the pressure to mount as each of the conspirators tried to escape the death sentence. In June 1971, Claude Vealey pleaded guilty to three counts of murder. Awaiting sentencing, Vealey was summoned as a prosecution witness at Buddy Martin's trial and implicated his fellow gunman. Both Martin and Paul Gilly, who was tried in February 1972, were convicted and faced three death sentences for murdering the Yablonskis in their beds.
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