DETROIT -- Joe Ashton, the UAW's lead negotiator with General Motors in 2011 who later sat on GM's board, pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to money laundering and wire fraud.
Ashton is the 11th person to plead guilty in the federal government's ongoing corruption probe.
Ashton is expected to receive a prison sentence of 30 to 37 months and agreed to forfeit $250,000 he collected in kickbacks, according to the plea agreement he reached with prosecutors. Sentencing was scheduled for March 3.
Ashton was charged Nov. 6 in the corruption scandal that centers on the misuse of union funds. Ashton was the vice president in charge of the UAW's GM department from 2010 to 2014. He also was on the board of the UAW and GM's jointly run training center.
After retiring from the union, he represented the UAW's retiree health care trust on the GM Board of Directors for three years before resigning in 2017 after being implicated in the corruption investigation.
“He’s guilty, like the judge said,” Jerome Ballarotto, Ashton’s attorney told reporters. “Sometimes you just find that good people just make really bad decisions, and they do bad things because [of]… a situation they find themselves in at the moment.”
Ashton asked Ballarotto to apologize to UAW members and GM.
“The UAW was the center of his professional life for half a century,” Ballarotto said.
Ashton and Ballarotto will have an explanation for Ashton’s crimes at his sentencing in March. “It’s certainly not an excuse. It’s not a defense. It’s not justification,” Ballarotto said.
Ballarotto wouldn’t share the details of Ashton’s explanation Wednesday, but he said Ashton was not ordered to commit crimes. He made “bad decisions on his own.”
If Ashton’s sentencing is longer than 30 months, Ballarotto plans to file a motion for downward variance to shorten his sentencing time.