Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Wright, Two Pals Guilty On Some Counts In Corruption Case

The federal jury in the case of Chris Wright, City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, has started day six of deliberations. The corruption trial, originally projected to last two weeks, is now into its fifth week, astounding defense attorneys who had predicted this would all be over by now. Wright is accused of taking bribes from Kelly's one-time campaign treasurer, attorney Andy Teitelman, and developers Hardeep and Ravinder Chawla.

Wright, Two Pals Guilty On Some Counts In Corruption Case

The federal jury in the case of Chris Wright, City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, has started day six of deliberations.  The corruption trial, originally projected to last two weeks, is now into its fifth week, astounding defense attorneys who had predicted this would all be over by now.  Wright is accused of taking bribes from Kelly's one-time campaign treasurer, attorney Andy Teitelman, and developers Hardeep and Ravinder Chawla.

Prosecutors say Wright received $1,000, a rent-free apartment and free legal services to help Teitelman and the Chawla brothers, Kelly's most generous political donors, with city agencies and officials on real estate, zoning and tax issues.  Defense attorneys say Wright was given gifts by friends who had no need to bribe him because they had direct access to Kelly.

Check back here today for trial updates.

UPDATE, 10:15 am:  U.S. District Justice Eduardo Robreno's clerk just announced that the jury has reached a verdict.  We're waiting now for all of the defense attorneys and defendants to assemble in the courtroom.  The verdict should be announced in about 20 minutes.

UPDATE, 10:25 am:   The jury on Thursday announced that it had reached verdicts on more than half of the 38 counts in the case but were deadlocked on the remaining issues.  The question being asked in court right now -- Will we have a partially hung jury or will they deliver verdicts on all counts.

UPDATE, 11 am:  All the prosecutors and defense attorneys are here. The jury just entered the courtroom.  They wrapped up deliberations in about an hour this morning, on the sixth day.

UPDATE, 11:10 am:  The verdict is a mixed bag on all 38 counts, with many more not guilty verdicts than guilty verdicts.  It appears Hardeep Chawla has been acquitted.  His brother, along with Wright and Teitelman, have been found guilty of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud.

UPDATE, 12 pm:  Ravinder Chawla was found guilty of honest services wire fraud for offering Wright a consulting job on the Philadelphia River City project he was developing along the banks of the Schuylkill River.  All three were found guilty for the rent-free apartment near Rittenhouse Square and for the legal work Teitelman performed when the new owners of that building tried to evict Wright.

UPDATE, 12:05 pm:  Kelly has put out a statement -- you can read it here -- saying that he thinks Wright got a fair trial and he wishes him well.  Kelly acknowledges that a jury found that his chief of staff had "violated the public trust, and he must now face the consequences." Wright has been on unpaid leave from Kelly's office since he was indicted in August.

UPDATE, 12:25 pm:  Teitelman said he was "disappointed" with the verdict but "thrilled that the jury was not fooled by the charges against Hardeep."  His defense attorney, Bill DeStefano, and Tom Bergstrom, defense attorney for Ravinder Chawla, said they plan to file motions asking the judge to throw out the guilty verdicts for being inconsistent with the many charges where their clients were acquitted.  Lisa Mathewson, attorney for Wright, said she will be looking at that subject as well. 

Bill Winning, Hardeep Chawla's attorney, described the results this way:  "It's certainly a bittersweet result, in that his brother Ravi and the other two were convicted of even a few offenses."

UPDATE, 12:55 pm:  The U.S. Attorney's Office just issued this statement:

PHILADELPHIA - Christopher Wright, 45, of Philadelphia, Ravinder S. Chawla, 59, of Abington, PA, and Andrew Teitelman, 50, of Newtown, PA were convicted today of conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud, honest services mail fraud, and mail fraud, announced United States Attorney Laurie Magid and Special Agent-in-Charge of the FBI Janice Fedarcyk. Ravinder Chawla was additionally convicted of honest services wire fraud. Wright had served as chief of staff to a Philadelphia city council member. Chawla is a real estate developer and Teitelman is Chawla’s attorney. Chawla’s brother, Hardeep, was acquitted.

From June 2005 to January 2008, Wright used his official position with city council to give special treatment to Ravinder Chawla and Teitelman in exchange for approximately $16,000 in cash and other gifts, including a free apartment in Philadelphia’s prestigious Rittenhouse Square area and a free parking space. Wright also received free legal services from Teitelman. In an e-mail dated November 2006, Ravinder Chawla offered to retain Wright as “Our Consultant.” In March 2007, Wright sent an e-mail about a real estate project to Ravinder Chawla and signed it, “Your Public Servant.”

In May 2006, Ravinder Chawla and Teitelman, aware that Wright needed a place to live because of marital and financial difficulties, offered him the opportunity to live rent-free in a Delancey Street apartment in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square area; an offer which Wright accepted. Chawla and Teitelman then implemented a scheme to place Wright in the apartment, which came with a free parking space, by playing the real estate version of a “shell game” with sellers and buyers of the building to ensure that Wright continued to live rent-free.

In March 2007, when the new owner of the building on Delancey Street began eviction proceedings against Wright, Teitelman provided free legal services throughout the eviction process.

The defendants face approximately five to six years in prison. Sentencing for Christopher Wright is scheduled for May 14, 2009. Sentencing for Ravinder Chawla is scheduled for May 15, 2009. Sentencing for Andrew Teitelman is scheduled for May 22, 2009.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Bresnick and Jennifer Arbittier Williams.

UPDATE, 3:15 pm:  Kelly sent an e-mail to City Council President Anna Verna this afternoon after the verdicts, requesting an end "effective immediately" to Wright's employment by the city.  Wright had been on unpaid leave from Kelly's office since his indictment in August.  Kelly's memo mentions Wright's conviction as the reason for his employment coming to an end.

About this blog
Chris Brennan, a native Philadelphian and graduate of Temple University, joined the Daily News in 1999. He has written about SEPTA, the Philadelphia School District, the legalization of casino gambling, state government, the mayor, the governor, City Council and political campaigns. E-mail tips to brennac@phillynews.com
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Jenny DeHuff is a 2005 graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she cut her teeth in journalism. A South Philly transplant from New England, she joined the Daily News City Hall Bureau in 2013. For the past several years, she has worked as an investigative reporter exposing corruption in suburban politics, covering sometimes ghastly criminal court cases and following the people’s money and how its spent. In addition to being a dogged news hound, she enjoys reading and writing about travel, animals, Irish whiskey and aviation. E-mail tips to dehuffj@phillynews.com
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Sean Collins Walsh is from Bucks County and went to Northwestern University. He joined the Daily News copy desk in 2012 and now covers the Nutter administration. Before that, he interned at papers including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and The Seattle Times. E-mail tips to walshSE@phillynews.com
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