Kenyatta Johnson trial: Judge declares mistrial in case against councilman, wife

The trial for Philadelphia councilman Kenyatta Johnson and his wife has ended in a mistrial after days of jury deliberations. 

In January, Johnson, 46, and his wife Dawn Chavous, 40, were indicted on fraud charges in what officials called a "widespread corruption conspiracy." 

Federal authorities accused Johnson, who has been a councilman since 2012, of engaging in official actions in exchange for payments. Chavous is accused of entering into a "sham" consulting agreement with a nonprofit that was used to funnel payments to her husband, authorities say. 

"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," a joint statement from Johnson's attorney's Patrick Egan and Barry Gross read. 

They claimed that the 6-year investigation that included over 150 interviews and two million documents turned up no evidence of wrongdoings. 

Before being indicted, Johnson released a statement saying, "First, let me be clear: I am innocent. I did nothing wrong. I am the victim of overzealous federal prosecutors who have spent the last five years looking for something to charge me with." 

The four-week-long trial began on March 24 and prosecutors outlined their case against the councilman, including accusations that he took more than $66,000 in bribes disguised as fees paid to his wife’s consulting company. 

Federal prosecutors claimed Johnson pressed for a zoning change to help increase the sale price of the former Royal Theater on South Street. They also allege he worked to keep properties along 13th and Bainbridge from being seized.

Eagan and Gross said the government's entire case "relies on the opinion of a single agent who has never served as a consultant and has no training in organizational management and has never worked with or for charter schools."

Johnson offered scant comments to reporters gathered outside the courthouse immediately following the mistrial ruling and differed shouted questions to his lawyers.

"First and foremost I just want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ, I want to thank all our family, friends, supporters for pray for us, showing us support during this very stressful time," Johnson said.


Jurors heard closing arguments in the case on April 12 after the defense rested its case.

Neither Johnson nor his wife took the stand in the trial.

After deliberating for several days, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. 

Johnson ran on a platform focused on keeping property taxes low, justice system reform and Pre-K education. He is also the founder of Peace Not Guns, which was started after the murder of his cousin in Philadelphia in 1998.

Johnson and Chavous currently reside in Point Breeze with their sons. 



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