Former Philly Sheriff John Green beats charges in federal corruption case

Former Philadelphia sheriff avoids conviction on five federal corruption charges stemming from the award of contracts to businesses owned by a friend.

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green outside the Federal Courthouse. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John D. Green outside the Federal Courthouse. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Former Philadelphia Sheriff John Green has avoided conviction on all five of the federal corruption charges lodged against him.

On Tuesday, a federal jury in Philadelphia found Green not guilty on three counts of honest services fraud.

But the jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on two other charges against Green, which means federal prosecutors may retry him on those counts.

“I’m very relieved,” Green said after the verdict. “I’m appreciative of the jury’s thoroughness in examining the evidence.”

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Green’s co-defendant, Philadelphia businessman James Davis, was found guilty of conspiracy, honest services fraud, filing false federal tax returns, and failing to file federal tax returns.

Davis was acquitted of two counts of conspiracy, and the jury deadlocked on another count.

“I’ve always tried to help people. I’m confused at this verdict,” Davis said in a brief interview after the verdicts were read. “It was a complicated case, hard to understand. I’m going to reflect on it and figure out where we go from here.”

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

Green was elected sheriff in 1987 and served 22 years before resigning in January 2011, after questions were raised about the office’s finances.

The investigation took years, as did the prosecution. Green and Davis were charged in December 2015, but the trial didn’t begin until last month.

For five weeks, a jury heard detailed evidence and testimony about contracts and financial transactions between Green and Davis.

But there was no direct testimony of Green and Davis discussing official action taken in return for for financial benefits.

Prosecutors established that Green never filed required reports on the gifts or campaign contributions he received, and they said steps the two men took to hide their transactions indicated criminal intent.

Green’s attorney, Pete Scuderi, said the government failed to show a corrupt relationship between the two men or the theft of tax dollars.

“No witness walked in and said `Hey, the city lost $10,000 because of this, the city lost a million,’ ” Scuderi said after the verdict. “When push came to shove, they didn’t see [Green] getting any kind of great benefit.”

Asked about the fact that millions of dollars worth of contracts went to Davis that were never committed to writing or reviewed by lawyers, Green acknowledged he could have been a better administrator.

“I’ve made mistakes. We make mistakes in life,” Green said. “I just hope they’re compared to the good I’ve done.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Diviny said prosecutors respect the jury’s decision, but declined further comment.

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