Updated Apr 20, 2022 - News

Mistrial declared in Philly Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson's bribery trial

Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson

Philadelphia Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson speaks at City Hall. Photo: Jared Piper/Philadelphia City Council Flickr

A federal judge declared a mistrial in the corruption trial of Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, Dawn Chavous, on Tuesday.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh said the jury "reached a deadlock" after deliberating for roughly 25 hours, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "Sending them back to deliberate any further may be coercive," he said.

  • The U.S. Attorney's Office is committed to retrying Johnson and Chavous, a spokesperson for the office said Tuesday.

State of play: Federal prosecutors had accused Johnson, a three-term Democrat who represents District 2, of accepting more than $66,000 in bribes from nonprofit charter school operator Universal Companies.

  • In exchange, prosecutors alleged Johnson supported legislation that helped boost the resale value of one of Universal Companies' properties and helped protect other properties from seizure.
  • Johnson was accused of accepting the bribes through a consulting contract his wife had with Universal Companies in 2013 and 2014.

What they're saying: Johnson told reporters Tuesday that he will "continue fighting on behalf of the residents that I represent in the Second Councilmanic District."

Attorneys for Johnson and Chavous plan to speak to prosecutors. They also released a joint statement Tuesday, saying:

  • "We are gratified that some of the jurors appear to recognize the government did not introduce a single piece of hard evidence that either the Councilmember or Ms. Chavous did something wrong."

Zoom out: Johnson is the second city legislator to stand trial on federal corruption charges in the last six months.

  • In November, jurors found then-City Councilmember Bobby Henon and labor leader John Dougherty guilty of conspiracy charges in a federal bribery trial.
  • Henon resigned from his seat in January and is scheduled to be sentenced this month.

Pat Christmas, policy director for the good-government group Committee of Seventy, said there are "big questions about what City Council will do" following the two corruption trials.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add comment from Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Committee of Seventy's Pat Christmas.


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