Lawyers for Kenyatta Johnson focus on bank accounts in trial

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Lawyers will begin their fifth day of questioning on Thursday of the government’s key witness in the federal corruption trial of Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, his wife Dawn Chavous and two former Universal Companies executives.

Johnson is accused of accepting a bribe from Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, in the form of a $66,000 deal between Universal and Chavous’ consulting firm.

Defense attorneys continued to question the lead FBI agent on the case, Richard Haag. A starkly different picture of Johnson and Chavous’ finances emerged from that previously presented during his testimony.

Prosecutors asked Haag to focus on one of Chavous’ bank statements, with an ending balance of zero dollars as well as overdraft charges on the couple’s account and credit card statements with apparently high balances. to support the government’s theory that the couple had financial difficulties in 2013-14, the period covered by the indictment.

Defense attorneys expanded the focus on the couple’s finances. Chavous, they revealed, had four other bank accounts that maintained balances of $9,000 to $11,000.

Johnson maintained balances of $21,000 to $30,000 in his accounts. Overdrafts on one account were covered by the others.

Haag acknowledged that credit cards covered business expenses, not just personal expenses.

On Chavous’ biggest debt, her mortgage, she not only paid on time, but added cash to pay off the principal.

Chavous’ lawyer, Barry Gross, also spent hours combing through emails and text messages to and from Chavous, to refute the government’s claim that Chavous did little work for his contract with Universal.

Haag, in fact, had put an exact figure on the number of hours worked by Chavous during his 16-month contract: 40 hours.

So as Gross read each new thread or task he described, he asked Haag, “Did you factor that into your 40 hours?” Haag answered yes each time.
Gross’ frustration grew and the rallies grew heated as the afternoon progressed.

He was in the middle of another cross-examination as the court adjourned.

Cross-examination is expected to continue Thursday, with prosecutors then having the opportunity to question Haag again.

Dozens of witnesses, including many elected officials, could be called as witnesses during the trial. It was delayed for about two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This should take about three weeks.

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Shawanda H. Saldana