Tough term urged for Kelly's ex-aide

Chris Wright (left) leaves federal court in February after being found guilty of corruption charges.
Chris Wright (left) leaves federal court in February after being found guilty of corruption charges.
Posted: August 05, 2009

The fallout from the lenient 55-month sentence given to former state Sen. Vince Fumo last month continues to reverberate around the federal courthouse.

Federal prosecutors yesterday filed a 31-page sentencing memo asking U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno to sentence City Councilman Jack Kelly's former chief of staff, Christopher Wright, to 78 months behind bars.

Wright, scheduled to be sentenced Monday, was found guilty of corruption charges after a 20-day trial in February.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bresnick cited the Fumo sentence is his court filing, calling it a "travesty" and said other federal judges should not use it as a "baseline" for public-corruption offenses.

"This court should not follow a path of condoning and lightly punishing breaches of the public trust by public officials," Bresnick wrote.

He said the court, in sentencing Wright, must send a "clear and unequivocal" message that public corruption "will be met with fair but harsh treatment."

Bresnick also criticized a presentence report prepared by the U.S. Probation Department. (Judges use the report to aid them when imposing sentences.)

The feds said probation understated the seriousness of Wright's offenses, resulting in an advisory sentencing guideline range of 27 to 33 months. Prosecutors said Wright's crimes merit a sentence of at least 78 months.

The jury found Wright guilty of conspiracy to commit honest-services fraud and two mail-fraud charges.

Real-estate developer Ravinder Chawla and his general counsel, Andy Teitelman, were found guilty of the same charges.

Chawla and Teitelman are to be sentenced next month.

The feds said Wright lived in a rent-free, $1,500-a-month apartment near Rittenhouse Square for 14 months between June 2006 and August 2007 and received free parking and free legal services in exchange for helping Ravinder Chawla and Teitelman on real-estate, zoning and tax issues with the city.

Bresnick said that probation undervalued what the free apartment and free parking were worth to Wright, which the prosecutor pegged at more than $23,000.

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