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.