Opening statements made in bribery trial of Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, wife

The federal government opened its bribery trial against Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and his wife Dawn Chavous by accusing the pair of selling Johnson’s office for personal gain.

Johnson, who represents the 2nd. Council District which includes parts of Center City, South and Southwest Philadelphia, is accused of taking more than $66k in bribes disguised as fees paid to his wife’s consulting company.

Federal prosecutors claim 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.

Lead prosecutor Eric Gibson said the case is an example of "quid pro quo corruption."

Johnson and Chavous argue they are not guilty. Their lawyer, Patrick Egan, in his opening statement said the non-profit accused with paying the bribes, Universal Companies, founded by music legend Kenny Gamble, didn’t have to bribe Johnson he supported their agenda. He said "you don’t bribe someone you don’t have to."

The government alleges Dawn Chavous had a "low show" job with Universal for which she did almost no work.

Chavous’ attorney, Barry Gross, argued Chavous’ contract was not "bogus" and said she is experienced and hardworking.

The trail is expected to last three weeks.




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