Judge sentences ex-aide to Councilman Kelly to 4 years in prison on corruption charges

Wright and attorney Lisa Mathewson after sentencing yesterday.
Wright and attorney Lisa Mathewson after sentencing yesterday.
Posted: August 11, 2009

The former chief of staff to City Councilman Jack Kelly was sentenced yesterday to four years behind bars on federal corruption charges.

U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno gave Christopher G. Wright until Sept. 24 to report to the Bureau of Prisons.

Advisory-sentencing guidelines had called for a longer sentence - 51 to 63 months. (Prosecutors argued for a 63-month sentence; the defense wanted house arrest and community service or no more than 366 days in prison.)

U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy said he was "pleased" with the sentence. He said public employees and officials "who serve their own interests undermine the public's trust in government."

Defense attorney Lisa Mathewson said she was "disappointed," adding that Wright would decide whether to appeal the conviction or sentence.

Wright, 45, of Rhawnhurst, declined to comment.

He was convicted by a jury in February of using his official post to help developer and Kelly political donor Ravinder Chawla and his general counsel, Andy Teitelman, on real-estate, zoning and tax matters.

Chawla and Teitelman were convicted by the same jury of related conspiracy charges.

In exchange for the help, Wright received a rent-free apartment near Rittenhouse Square from June 2006 to August 2007, free legal services and cash, together worth about $16,000, prosecutors said.

The judge said it was "clear" that Wright had put the interests of his "benefactors" ahead of those of other citizens.

Kelly said in a statement that he was a "bit disappointed in the harshness" of the sentence, in light of other recent sentencings of public officials.

Before sentencing, Wright told Robreno that he had been a good steward of the people's business.

"I've given 100 percent to my job, 24-7," he said. "I treated everyone the same. If you had a problem, I was there to help. That was my job . . . ."

Wright said he was "ashamed" that he had allowed alcohol abuse and personal problems to intrude on his job at City Hall.

Although Wright apologized to the court, Robreno said he did not think adequate remorse was shown.

"Mr. Wright has not fully come to terms with the illegality of his conduct," the judge said, adding that his trial testimony and his statement to the court yesterday "[did] not reflect a deep sense of contrition for the harm he has caused."

Robreno said he had not considered the recent 55-month sentence given to former state senator Vince Fumo, saying it was "not relevant" to Wright's case.

Prosecutors suggested last week that judges should not use the Fumo case as a "guidepost" in sentencing other defendants convicted on corruption charges.

Family members, including Wright's oldest brother, Mark, expressed bitterness toward the feds outside the courtroom.

"This was a sham," he said. "These prosecutors should be ashamed of themselves. My brother doesn't have remorse because he feels he's innocent."

Earlier yesterday, Robreno denied defense motions by Wright, Chawla and Teitelman for acquittals and/or a new trial.

Chawla's sentencing is set for Sept. 1; Teitelman's is Sept. 2.

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