Saturday, July 26, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Feds Can Use Prior Conviction In City Hall Corruption Case

City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, and three men charged with bribing him, lost their first legal round in a hearing before jury selection starts today. Wright, on trial with brothers Ravinder and Hardeep Chawla and their attorney, Andrew Teitelman, sought to keep the jury from knowing that Hardeep Chawla pleaded guilty in 2006 to defrauding the federal government.

Feds Can Use Prior Conviction In City Hall Corruption Case

City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Chris Wright, and three men charged with bribing him, lost their first legal round in a hearing before jury selection starts today.  Wright, on trial with brothers Ravinder and Hardeep Chawla and their attorney, Andrew Teitelman, sought to keep the jury from knowing that Hardeep Chawla pleaded guilty in 2006 to defrauding the federal government.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno will let the jury hear about that since it is crucial to the government's claim that a $1,000 check given by Hardeep Chawla to Wright before his 2006 guilty plea was a bribe to get Kelly to write a letter of reference to the judge in that case.

Bill Winning, Hardeep Chawla's attorney argued that the government was pushing a "preposterous theory."  The other defense attorneys agreed that hearing about Hardeep Chawla's prior conviction could prejudice the jury against all four defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Besnick laid out how Wright and Teitelman, who serves as attorney for many of the Chawla family real estate businesses, emailed the letter back and forth to edit it before Kelly signed it.  Bresnick called it a "get out of jail free letter from Councilman Kelly."  Chawla served five months in prison and was on two years of supervised release when the new federal investigation started.

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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