A December 2015 Eagles game against the Buffalo Bills has already played a role in the conviction of one Philadelphia City Council member and raised questions about a second member’s failure to disclose the free tickets she received.

Now, if prosecutors have their way, it could feature in the upcoming federal bribery trial of a third.

Government lawyers are seeking to present evidence to the jury that City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson was given tickets worth nearly $1,500 for him and his wife to watch the game in a luxury box maintained by the politically powerful Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at Lincoln Financial Field.

While the tickets do not form the basis for any charge Johnson is facing, prosecutors argue his failure to report them as gifts on his state-mandated financial disclosure forms speaks to the larger allegations in their case.

Johnson, 46, was indicted in 2020 on charges he accepted $66,750 in bribes in the form of contract work for his wife from two executives at a Philadelphia nonprofit seeking his help on real estate matters in the city. He failed to disclose the potential conflict that his wife was employed by the nonprofit — Universal Companies — when he voted on matters directly affecting them.

“The fact that Johnson intentionally hid his gifted Eagles tickets makes it more likely than not that Johnson was also intentionally hiding the fact that [the nonprofit] had paid $66,750 to his wife,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric L. Gibson wrote in a recent court filing. “Such action demonstrates a pattern of corruption and deception.”

Attorneys for Johnson and Dawn Chavous have scoffed at the notion that the Eagles tickets have anything to do with the alleged crimes at the center of the case and urged the judge to keep all evidence about the 2015 game out of the trial.

It is just one of several disputes that have emerged over what evidence will make its way in front of the jury as Johnson’s case heads to trial in March. The councilmember and his wife have repeatedly denied the accusations against them.

At a federal court hearing Monday, the lawyers sparred over issues such as whether Chavous tried to hide her emails from investigators by deleting them and whether, in front of jurors, prosecutors should be allowed to accuse her of doing so.

Her attorney, Barry Gross, maintains she had no idea she was under investigation when she cleared out her inbox. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubnoff balked.

“I don’t believe this story,” he said.

They also clashed over how much the government will be allowed to reference their wider accusations against Johnson and Chavous’ two codefendants — Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, the two Universal Companies executives accused of bribing them.

Islam and Dawan formerly led the community development and charter school operating nonprofit, founded by renowned music producer Kenny Gamble.

Prosecutors have also charged them with embezzling more than $500,000 from it and with a separate bribery scheme involving the former school board president in Milwaukee, where Universal ran two charter campuses.

But last year, U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh Jr. ruled that those allegations should be heard in a separate trial since they are distinct from their alleged bribery of Johnson and Chavous.

On Monday, prosecutors maintained that the alleged embezzlement by Islam and Dawan explained their motive for bribing Johnson, since the zoning changes he introduced on properties Universal owned proved lucrative for the nonprofit and helped keep it afloat despite the money Islam and Dawan were allegedly stealing from it.

Defense attorneys maintain the government is just seeking to sneak in allegations the judge has already excluded from Johnson and Chavous’ trial.

“It’s going to create incredible jury confusion,” Johnson’s attorney, Patrick Egan, said. “They’re going to be sitting there thinking, ‘OK, we have to decide what the story is with this.’”

As for the football game, tickets to the same event were part of the stream of bribes jurors concluded former City Councilmember Bobby Henon accepted from union leader John Dougherty when they convicted both men of bribery in November.

Like Johnson, Henon, a member of Dougherty’s union, did not report receiving them on his ethics filings. At that trial, prosecutors played wiretapped recordings of Henon counseling his Council colleague, Helen Gym, who also attended the game at Local 98′s expense, not to report them, either.

“With Local 98 it’s a little different,” he said. “They get the box and … keep no log. … There’s no trail of anything.”

Gym did not initially disclose receiving the tickets. Prosecutors have not accused her of wrongdoing. Her spokesperson has since said she’s amended her financial filings to include them.

McHugh has not ruled yet over whether he’ll permit evidence of Johnson’s similar lapse at his trial, making him the third councilmember burned by his attendance at Lincoln Financial Field that day.

Ultimately, as Dougherty’s lawyer, Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., quipped during his trial: “It wasn’t even that good of a game.”