Northeast Times

Ex-Kelly aide, two others could face retrial

Start­Frag­ment

Chris­toph­er Wright, Ravi Chawla and Andy Teitel­man are wait­ing to see if the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice de­cides to retry them, now that the Third Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals has thrown out their con­vic­tions.

Wright, Chawla and Teitel­man were con­victed by a jury in Feb­ru­ary 2009 on cor­rup­tion charges and sen­tenced to fed­er­al pris­on, but the U.S. Su­preme Court ruled un­an­im­ously in June 2010 that the hon­est ser­vices fraud law was vague as it per­tains to fail­ure to re­port a con­flict of in­terest and, in­stead, should be ap­plied only in cases of bribery and kick­backs.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has used the hon­est ser­vices fraud law to win con­vic­tions against gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and cor­por­ate ex­ec­ut­ives. Former En­ron chief ex­ec­ut­ive Jef­frey Skilling chal­lenged the law in court.

The three men have been out on bail since the rul­ing.

U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Eduardo Ro­breno sen­tenced Wright, former chief of staff to re­cently re­tired City Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly, to four years in pris­on. Chawla, a wealthy real es­tate de­veloper and ma­jor donor to Kelly’s cam­paign, re­ceived a 30-month sen­tence. Teitel­man, Kelly’s cam­paign treas­urer who also was Chawla’s busi­ness at­tor­ney, was sen­tenced to 24 months.

Kelly was not im­plic­ated in the case. He taped a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Wright and a meet­ing with Chawla and test­i­fied at tri­al for the pro­sec­u­tion.

Hardeep Chawla, Ravi’s broth­er, was ac­quit­ted at the tri­al.

The four were in­dicted in 2008 in a case that centered around Wright’s free use of an apart­ment and park­ing space on Del­an­cey Street in Ritten­house Square for 14 months, pro bono leg­al ad­vice from his good friend Teitel­man and a $1,000 pay­ment.

Pro­sec­utors as­ser­ted that Wright ac­cep­ted the perks in ex­change for help­ing the Chaw­las’ de­vel­op­ment pro­jects.

However, de­fense at­tor­neys ar­gued that the apart­ment, money and leg­al ad­vice were giv­en out of friend­ship and con­cern, since Wright was fa­cing prob­lems re­lated to money, drink­ing, a di­vorce, child cus­tody fight and pos­sible fore­clos­ure of his Mill­brook Road home.

Last week’s rul­ing fol­lows a Sept. 21, 2011 hear­ing in front of a three-judge pan­el.

The pan­el de­term­ined that the Su­preme Court rul­ing un­der­mined the con­vic­tions. Spe­cific­ally, it wrote that the jury in­struc­tions on the hon­est ser­vices fraud law were in­cor­rect, based on the high court rul­ing.

At this point, the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice could retry the case, work with de­fense at­tor­neys on a plea bar­gain or, less likely, dis­miss the charges. ••

End­Frag­ment

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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