Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Defense Continues In Chris Wright Corruption Trial

Ravinder Chawla just finished testifying in his own defense in the City Hall corruption trial of Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright. Chawla denied bribing Wright, along with his brother, Hardeep, and their attorney, Andy Teitelman.

Defense Continues In Chris Wright Corruption Trial

Ravinder Chawla just finished testifying in his own defense in the City Hall corruption trial of Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright.  Chawla denied bribing Wright, along with his brother, Hardeep, and their attorney, Andy Teitelman.

Prosecutors say Chawla set Wright up in a rent-free apartment near Rittenhouse Square, a value they put at more than $15,000.  Chawla set up a deal to purchase the property but then flipped it to another buyer, taking a fee as a middleman.  He claimed on the stand to have no involvement in Wright moving in before the new buyer stepped in.

"A free apartment?" Chawla testified.  "I would have never given anyone a free apartment." 

The Chawla brothers are Kelly's most generous campaign contributors.  Teitelman was Kelly's campaign treasurer.

Check back here today for trial updates.

UPDATE, 12:15 pm:  Architect and urban planner Jim Rappaport is testifying.  Rappaport worked for Ravinder Chawla real estate developments, including the proposed massive Philadelphia River City across the Schuylkill River from 30th Street Station.  Rappaport has said he thought Wright was a "real estate guy" politically involved with Kelly.  He has repeatedly said he had no idea Wright was a city employee until an FBI agent told him.

Prosecutors say Wright tried to sell Chawla properties through a side job as a real estate agent and stood to share in part of a $6 million commission if a River City sale occurred.

UPDATE, 2:15 pm:  Wright just took the stand in his own defense.  His attorney, Lisa Mathewson, started her questioning with this exchange: 

Mathewson:  Did you sell your office?  Wright:  No.

Mathewson:  Did you cheat the people of Philadelphia?  Wright:  No.

UPDATE, 3:15 pm:  Wright is testifying about a difficult time in his life in 2005, as his marriage was falling apart, which he said led to him drinking too much.  Wright said his wife was angry that he spent after-hours attending events for Kelly.

“The issue was I wasn’t home enough," Wright said. "I was spending too much time out. I would say I was working. She would say I was playing.”

Wright said his drinking was "out of control" after he moved out of the house he shared with his wife and into his brother's apartment.  Teitelman, Kelly and Al Taubenberger eventually sat him down and told him he had to get help.  That started a trip to rehab in Bucks County.

Wright said Hardeep Chawla knew he had no car and money troubles when he got out of rehab.  Chawla gave him a check for $1,000 in December 2005, which Wright later declared on his state ethics financial disclosure form.  Prosecutors say that was one of a series of bribes Wright received.  Wright said he gave Chawla a bottle of wine the next day that he had received from another friend, adding he felt a need to reciprocate on the gift.

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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