Nov 2, 2022 - News

Jury acquits Philly Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson in bribery trial

Kenyatta Johnson

Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

A federal jury acquitted Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson on bribery charges on Wednesday, the Inquirer reports.

What's happening: Johnson and his wife, Dawn Chavous, faced two counts of honest services fraud, each related to an alleged quid-pro-quo scheme in which prosecutors say former executives of nonprofit charter school operator Universal Companies swapped cash for political favors.

  • The jury also acquitted Chavous along two former executives of the nonprofit — Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan — after five days of deliberations, per the Inquirer.

Between the lines: The verdict came hours after U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh removed a juror and replaced the person with an alternate on Wednesday, the Inquirer reports.

  • Attorneys on both sides and the judge did not explain what led to the juror's removal.

Flashback: This was the second federal trial for Johnson, a three-term Democrat from Point Breeze, and the others on the charges.

  • A federal judge declared a mistrial in the first trial in April, after jurors reached a deadlock on the charges against the councilman and his wife.

Catch up fast: Federal prosecutors accused Johnson, who represents District 2, of accepting more than $66,000 in bribes from 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.

The big picture: Johnson is the second councilmember to face corruption charges in federal court over the last year.

  • Ex-Councilmember Bobby Henon was found guilty of conspiracy and bribery charges in November 2021. He resigned in January.

What they're saying: Patrick Egan, Johnson's lawyer, told Axios that he was grateful for the jury's verdict, which he says means that the councilmember "can go back to representing the citizens of his district and taking care of the important issues to them instead of dealing with this mess."

Jennifer Crandall, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to comment or say whether prosecutors will appeal the decision.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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