PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and his wife, consultant Dawn Chavous, pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges on Friday. Johnson, who represents South Philadelphia in the city’s Second District, was named in a 22-count indictment alleging a wide-range racketeering conspiracy and related crimes, including bribery, honest services fraud, wire fraud and tax offenses.
Walking hand-in-hand while leaving federal court, Johnson and Chavous both pleaded not guilty to two counts each of honest services wire fraud. The pair surrendered to authorities earlier Friday.READ MORE: Double Shooting In Eastwick Kills 25-Year-Old Man, Wounds Pregnant Woman: Police
“My position is the same as it was over these last couple of days. I am innocent. I have pleaded not guilty and I look forward to my day in court to exonerate my name,” Johnson said.
Federal prosecutors say the councilman and his wife were part of a years-long pay-to-play corruption scheme.
The pair is accused of allegedly accepting bribes of more than $66,000 from Abdur Islam and Shahied Dawan, two business executives with South Philadelphia-based Universal companies.
Federal prosecutors claim the money was passed through Chavous’ consulting business.READ MORE: SEPTA Union Unanimously Approves Strike If Deal Isn't Reached
The cash, prosecutors say, was in exchange for official action by the councilman on the zoning of two properties — a lot at 13th and Bainbridge Streets and the old Royal Theater on South Street.
Chavous had very little to say after her arraignment.
“You heard what I said in court so I’m innocent. No comment after that, thank you,” Chavous said.
“As we’ve said all week, we’re gonna fight this case. These charges are not strong charges. They were brought after an investigation that was flawed by prosecutors who were looking to find a crime instead of looking to find the answers,” Johnson’s attorney, Patrick Egan, said.MORE NEWS: 'I Want To Go To Class': Philadelphia Students, Parents On Edge As Possible SEPTA Strike Could Force Virtual Learning
Bail was set at $15,000, but Johnson and Chavous were not required to post bail and were released on their own recognizance.