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In his first in-court attack on his federal indictment, labor leader John J. “Johnny Doc” Dougherty has urged a judge to dismiss charges that he bought Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon’s vote on key issues with a union salary, calling the allegations a “feeble attempt at criminalizing the legislative process.”

Prosecutors may claim to have exposed a corrupt relationship between the men, but all they have accomplished, defense lawyers argued in filings late Wednesday, is to outline a “normal and lawful lobbying of a City Council member.”

“There is nothing out of the ordinary, let alone unlawful, about Mr. Henon’s continued employment from Local 98″ of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, attorney Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. wrote, referring to Dougherty’s union. He added later: “Nothing about this employment arrangement amounts to bribery.”

The argument mirrors broad attacks launched in January by Henon’s lawyer, Brian J. McMonagle, at a news conference a day after prosecutors charged the Council member and Dougherty in a sprawling corruption case.

But Wednesday’s filing is the first time the defense has put forth such claims in court in an attempt to spare both men from a costly trial and the threat of prison should they be convicted.

What U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl will make of their assertions remains to be seen.

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