Wright corruption indictment dismissed

U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger last Friday sent a letter to District Court Judge Eduardo Robreno, asking for a motion to dismiss an indictment against the former chief of staff to retired City Councilman Jack Kelly.

Robreno agreed to dismiss the indictment.

A retrial was set for Sept. 9, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote in its motion, “While preparing for retrial in this case, the government recently learned of new witness-related developments due to the passage of time which lead the government to believe that it can no longer prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt under applicable law.”

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.

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. But, Robreno rejected the deal, saying, “These lenient recommended sentences are a signal to others that the vice of public corruption can be taken lightly.”

Initially, Wright was given a fouryear sentence. Chawla, a real estate developer and major donor to Kelly’s campaign, received a 30month sentence. 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.

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. ••