Campenella, owner of Campenella Construction, asked Lynch for help in lowering the assessments for several of his buildings around Philadelphia. In 2005, the value of one project, the Western Union Building condominiums at 11th and Locust Streets, was cut from $4.6 million to $1.6 million.
In November 2005, Campenella handed Lynch an envelope. Lynch said he did not know it contained money until he looked in it several hours later. He didn't return the $20,000, and he didn't report it.
Both men pleaded guilty in 2007 even as they insisted that the payments were not a bribe for Lynch's services. "There wasn't that expectation," said his lawyer, Angie Halim. Campenella maintained that he wanted to thank Lynch for his help.
They received probation and were ordered to pay fines - Lynch $25,000 and Campenella $250,000.
Prosecutors, even when they couldn't prove there was an explicit bribe, were able to use the honest-services statute to arrest politicians, public employees, and the people who gave them money or other benefits. But that changed last year after an appeal filed by former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling.
Only bribery and kickbacks were enough to prove a crime, the Supreme Court ruled. "Undisclosed self-dealing" was no longer enough.
Prosecutors in Philadelphia were aggressive in using the statute to target public corruption cases. Since the Skilling decision, a number of officials have tried to have their convictions thrown out.
Among them are former City Councilman Rick Mariano and Philip Chartock, a businessman convicted of paying Mariano for favors; and Christopher Wright, former aide to Councilman Jack Kelly, who was found guilty of using his influence to help developers who gave him gifts. Former Norristown Mayor Ted LeBlanc also is trying to challenge his corruption case.
Last month, a judge vacated the conviction of lawyer and businessman Nicholas Panarella Jr., who pleaded guilty 10 years ago in a case involving $330,000 in secret payments to former State Sen. F. Joseph Loeper.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Zauzmer said his office would review DuBois' decision and decide within a few weeks whether to appeal.
Lisa A. Mathewson, Lynch's lawyer, said he was gratified by the decision. Lynch has been working as a janitor since the conviction, she said.
"Jim's always stood by the position that he made a mistake in keeping the money," she said. "The significance of the decision is that his conduct wasn't criminal."
Contact staff writer Joseph Tanfani