Corruption case of former Philly sheriff goes to jury

A man walks past the federal courthouse in Philadelphia

The federal courthouse in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The little-noticed corruption case against former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green and an associate has now gone to a federal jury.

Prosecutors say Green handed millions of dollars in public contracts to companies owned by his friend James Davis, and Davis in turn rewarded Green with money, loans, illegal campaign contributions, even a cash advance to buy his Florida retirement home.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors scoffed at the notion the benefits Green got from Davis were simply gifts from a friend.

“Who has friends who give you $600,000 in personal benefits?” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Grieb in closing remarks.

Davis is also charged with giving Green’s wife a job and with wiring Green $258,000 to purchase his a home in Florida when he retired. Green, who served as city sheriff for 22 years, repaid the loan three months later with no interest.

Prosecutor Christopher Diviny said the transactions in the allegations were well documented in five weeks of testimony, and that Green didn’t report the gifts and campaign donations as he was legally required to do.

That showed he and Davis knew what they were doing was wrong, and their efforts to hide it demonstrate criminal intent, Diviny said.

Defense attorney Lewis Small said the problem for prosecutors is that they have no tape or testimony of Green and Davis talking about a corrupt arrangement.

“They have no agreement. They have no quid pro quo,” Small said.

Small said Davis got so many contracts from the sheriff’s department because his company had done such innovative and valuable work managing sales of foreclosed properties.

“This dedication, not this nonsense [in the prosecution’s case], is what engendered the trust Sheriff Green felt,” Small told the jury. “Because they were reliable, they could get it done.”

The jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

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