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James Hoffa has also been fined $10,000 (£3,570) for trying to bribe a Federal Court jury which was hearing a conspiracy charge against him in 1962.
He was accused of attempting to secure an acquittal on a charge of "shaking down" a local haulage company owner for a million-dollar contribution to the union funds in return for 18 months of workforce co-operation.
This was Hoffa's first conviction - although he has now stood trial on four previous occasions. Past charges include trying to bribe a lawyer to spy on a Senate Committee and tapping the telephones of his subordinates in the Detroit office of his union.
Hoffa will remain free on bail pending an appeal.
If the sentence is upheld, it could mean the loss of his job as head of the 1.7 million-strong American Teamsters union - the nation's largest.
US District Judge Frank Wilson told Hoffa: "You stand here convicted of corrupting the administration of justice, of having struck at the foundation of this nation. Without fair, lawful administration of justice, there would be no civilisation in this country."
Hoffa replied: "I am not guilty. I believe this will be substantiated when the evidence is ultimately considered coolly and calmly."
Hoffa and three others were found guilty on 4 March of trying to fix a jury which could not agree on a verdict in his 1962 trial on a conspiracy charge.
The other three have been sentenced to three years each. They have not received fines. They include Ewing King, former president of the Nashville Teamsters local; Larry Campbell, a Detroit Teamsters official and Thomas Ewing Parks, a handyman from Nashville.
Grounds for appeal include allegations that US marshals plied the jury with alcohol. Staff of the hotel where several jurors were confined during the trial have supported these claims.
As head of the Teamsters union, Hoffa commands a salary of $75,000, has an unlimited expense account and presides over an empire with pension and welfare funds worth $1bn.
Hoffa and Attorney General Robert Kennedy have had a running feud for years.
Mr Kennedy later issued a statement congratulating the prosecutors who won the conviction.
In July 1964, Hoffa was found guilty of misusing the union's pension funds. He appealed against this conviction as well.
Hoffa was re-elected president of the lorry drivers' union in July 1966 - despite two prison sentences totalling 13 years hanging over him.
He was also voted a big salary increase taking him to $100,000 and making him the highest-paid trade unionist in the country.
He commanded immense loyalty from Teamsters members for whom he had won significant overtime and fringe benefits.
The convictions against Hoffa were upheld and he served four years in prison, during which time he lost his job as Teamsters president.
On his release, he began working to regain the leadership but vanished in mysterious circumstances in 1975. He has not been seen since.
Investigators believe he may have been the victim of a feud within the world of organised crime.
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