Northeast Times

Kelly’s former chief, 2 others could face retrial

080608_­Phil­adelphi­a_PA_­Chris Wright, chief of staff for Phil­adelphia city coun­cil­man Jack Kelly ar­rives at fed­er­al court in Phil­adelphia to face the charges brought against him and sev­er­al oth­ers. Photo taken on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, Au­gust 6, 2008. ALE­JANDRO A. AL­VAREZ / PHIL­ADELPHIA DAILY NEWS

The former chief of staff to re­tired City Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly could be headed for a re­tri­al in a case that at one time ap­peared to be com­ing to an end. 

Chris Wright, of Fox Chase, and two oth­er men were con­victed by a jury in Feb­ru­ary 2009 on cor­rup­tion charges and sen­tenced to fed­er­al pris­on.

However, in June 2010, the U.S. Su­preme Court ruled un­an­im­ously that the hon­est ser­vices fraud law was vague as it per­tains to fail­ure to re­port a con­flict of in­terest and, in­stead, could be ap­plied only in cases of bribery and kick­backs.

Wright, Ravi Chawla and Andy Teitel­man have been out on bail since that rul­ing. In Janu­ary 2012, the U.S. Third Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals threw out the con­vic­tions.

Re­cently, de­fense law­yers and the U.S. At­tor­ney’s Of­fice struck a deal that would have al­lowed each de­fend­ant to plead guilty to a mis­de­mean­or charge, but serve no more pris­on time.

The deal was to be fi­nal­ized last Fri­day.

U.S. At­tor­ney Zane Dav­id Memeger was in the courtroom for the pro­ceed­ing, ar­guing that his of­fice has lim­ited re­sources, in part, be­cause of the se­quester deal between Con­gress and the White House. He also noted that lead pro­sec­utor Jen­nifer Ar­bit­ti­er Wil­li­ams is busy with ter­ror­ism cases.

But, U.S. Dis­trict Court Judge Eduardo Ro­breno re­jec­ted the deal. 

“These le­ni­ent re­com­men­ded sen­tences are a sig­nal to oth­ers that the vice of pub­lic cor­rup­tion can be taken lightly,” he said.

On Monday, the de­fend­ants were back in court, and their at­tor­neys told Ro­breno that they would be ask­ing the Third Cir­cuit to de­term­ine which charges the gov­ern­ment can pur­sue in a re­tri­al. The de­fense at­tor­neys are con­fid­ent of a fa­vor­able de­cision, point­ing out that their cli­ents were nev­er charged with bribery, the key com­pon­ent of hon­est ser­vices fraud, as de­term­ined by the Su­preme Court.

“There’s no basis for a re­tri­al. The con­duct they were charged with is not crim­in­al,” said Lisa Math­ewson, at­tor­ney for Wright.

The pro­sec­u­tion could ask the ap­peals court to re­in­state all of the ori­gin­al charges, even the ones of which the de­fend­ants were ac­quit­ted.

The de­fense at­tor­neys view that as double jeop­ardy and will vig­or­ously op­pose it. 

“The is­sues we were ac­quit­ted on can­not be lit­ig­ated,” said El­len Brot­man, Teitel­man’s law­yer.

Ini­tially, Wright was giv­en a four-year sen­tence.

Chawla, a real es­tate de­veloper and ma­jor donor to Kelly’s cam­paign, re­ceived a 30-month sen­tence. He is rep­res­en­ted by at­tor­ney Wil­li­am Win­ning.

Teitel­man — Kelly’s cam­paign treas­urer, Chawla’s busi­ness at­tor­ney and Wright’s good friend — was sen­tenced to 24 months.

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

The four were in­dicted in Au­gust 2008. The tri­al fo­cused on Wright’s free use of an apart­ment and park­ing space on Del­an­cey Street in Ritten­house Square for 14 months, pro bono leg­al ad­vice from Teitel­man and a $1,000 pay­ment. The de­fend­ants would have pleaded guilty to the use of the free apart­ment if the judge had agreed.

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

De­fense at­tor­neys con­ten­ded that the apart­ment, money and leg­al ad­vice were giv­en out of friend­ship and con­cern for Wright, who was fa­cing fin­an­cial and per­son­al is­sues.

Kelly was not im­plic­ated in the case, and he test­i­fied as a gov­ern­ment wit­ness. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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