Defense attorney Barry Gross, who represents Chavous, pointed out that his client had never been on Nixon’s team – that she reported directly to co-defendant and former Universal CEO Abdur Rahim Islam, just like several other consultants of the organization. He also featured emails addressed to Nixon and Chavous, including a message related to securing new funding for Universal, an ongoing goal for the nonprofit.
Johnson’s attorney, Patrick Egan, said Universal hired Chavous because the company knew it had ties to public officials, as well as well-heeled institutions and wealthy individuals who support charter schools. . Universal executives hoped those relationships could bring in money for the organization, he said.
“There are two types of charter schools — haves and have-nots,” Egan said. “Obviously, the haves get more funding than the have-nots. And they receive much more private funding than the poorest.
Prosecutors also discussed Chavous with former FBI special agent Robert McManigal, who interviewed former Universal CEO Abdur Rahim Islam and former Universal chief financial officer Dawan Shahied, who are charged alongside Johnson. and his wife.
During a 2017 interview with Dawan at his Philadelphia home, McManigal said the executive told federal investigators he believed Chavous “had a role in grant writing or fundraising” and that he may have even written his contract with the company.
But when McManigal asked for details, Dawan couldn’t comply. “He couldn’t give us examples of what she did.”
Islam, interviewed that morning, described Chavous as an education specialist who was “pretty well connected” to the directors of an investment firm that had spent millions supporting charter schools.
“At some point later, he indicated that she may have introduced them to Joel Greenberg,” McManigal said, referring to a co-founder of international band Susquehanna.
“Did he identify anything else?” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson.
“No,” replied the former agent.
During the same interview, conducted in two parts, Islam told investigators that he terminated Chavous’ contract in 2014 because she failed to raise funds for Universal, according to agents.
By then, she had been under contract for over a year. But Islam said there was no quid pro quo.
“He said he was never asked to hire Ms. Chavous in exchange for anything,” Gross said during cross-examination of McManigal.