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Retrial ‘Likely’ After Conviction of Philadelphia Councilman’s Aide Overturned

Mike Dunn Mike Dunn
Mike Dunn is City Hall bureau chief for KYW Newsradio 1060. He covers...
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By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A former Philadelphia City Council staffer today finds himself in legal limbo, after his 2009 conviction on corruption charges was tossed out this week by an appeals court.

Now, he’s waiting to see if he’ll face retrial.

Christopher Wright, former chief of staff to the recently retired at-large councilman Jack Kelly, had been convicted in 2009 of what’s called “honest services fraud,” for helping a developer who was giving him a rent-free apartment.

But last year, the US Supreme Court rejected one component of the honest services fraud law as too vague, and now a federal appeals court has, in turn, thrown out Wright’s conviction.

“In essence, it boils down to the fact that the jury was told certain conduct was criminal, when it’s actually not criminal,” says Wright’s attorney, Lisa Mathewson.

Though no final decision has been made, assistant US attorney Robert Zauzmer says a retrial is likely for Wright, as well as for a businessman and a lawyer whose convictions in the case were also overturned.

“I don’t see any reason that we wouldn’t be retrying it, given that we have a strong case and given that the evidence is there,” Zauzmer told KYW Newsradio this morning.

Wright’s corruption conviction is one of a dozens nationwide that have been overturned because of the US Supreme Court decision.  That ruling held that honest services fraud can only involve bribery of a public official, and not instances in which there was a simply conflict of interest.

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