A woman who had a front-row seat at many of the events mentioned in U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's federal racketeering conspiracy indictment testified for the defense at his trial Tuesday.
But if Maisha Leek, the congressman's former chief of staff and campaign fund-raising director, knew anything exceptionally beneficial to his defense or to the prosecutors seeking to convict him, she managed to keep it to herself.
One of the most closely connected, yet unindicted, members of Fattah's inner circle to testify so far, Leek worked closely with Herbert Vederman, the wealthy fund-raiser accused of bribing the congressman over several years. She was deeply involved in Fattah's failed 2007 bid to become Philadelphia's mayor - which authorities say he bankrolled with an illegal $1 million campaign loan that was paid back with stolen charitable and federal-grant funds.
Yet during two days of testimony that started Friday, Leek consistently came off as guarded, clipped, and cautious.
She bolstered some points that both sides had tried to make to jurors, but - unlike the other Fattah loyalists to testify for the defense so far - seemed more concerned with saying as little as possible.
"I just want to be 100 percent clear and certain," she said at one point Tuesday as Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson challenged her on her tendencies to rephrase, seek to clarify, or otherwise attempt to limit her responses.
In fact, Leek's most colorful testimony came in the moments that had little to do with the charges faced by her former boss.
She told jurors at one point Tuesday that years ago she had dated Fattah's son, Chaka "Chip" Jr., who is serving a five-year federal sentence for bank and tax fraud. Yet she clarified immediately that the relationship had only lasted "for a very brief moment."
Later, under cross-examination from Gibson, Leek confirmed that Fattah's congressional campaign had employed his daughter Frances as a fund-raiser in Philadelphia - a job she later left to work for the consulting firm of Gregory Naylor, one of her father's political strategists.
Naylor told jurors last month that he also had had Fattah Jr. on his payroll. Prosecutors have alleged that job was a no-show post that the congressman used to cover up the campaign contributions he was funneling to pay off his son's college debts.
But when asked Tuesday about the job Fattah's daughter held with Naylor's firm, Sidney Lei & Associates, Leek responded only: "My understanding was that she entered into a partnership."
Despite her reticence, Leek's testimony offered an opportunity for the defense to try to dispel narratives about Fattah and his codefendants that prosecutors have been building for weeks.
She told jurors Friday that she oversaw fund-raising efforts for Fattah's 2007 mayoral campaign, but insisted she knew nothing about the $1 million loan secured to support the bid in the waning days of the race.
That testimony buttressed arguments previously made by the congressman's lawyers, who have sought to pin blame on two of their client's political strategists - Naylor and Thomas Lindenfeld, both of whom have pleaded guilty to their own roles in the scheme and testified against Fattah at trial. Fattah's lawyers say both men acted on their own in securing the loan and kept the information from the congressman.
Asked about Vederman, the fund-raiser accused of paying bribes, Leek agreed that his relationship with Fattah extended beyond politics.
Vederman's lawyers, Robert Welsh and Catherine Recker, have pushed to characterize their client and the congressman as close friends, and have argued that prosecutors have cynically seized upon personal gifts - cash given to Fattah's children, college tuition payments for his South African au pair - and labeled them as bribes.
"Did their relationship extend beyond that of just a political supporter? Was their relationship personal?" Recker had asked Friday, eliciting a nod from Leek.
But prosecutors managed to find some benefit in Leek's time on the witness stand.
Since the trial began last month, they have sought to prove that in exchange for Vederman's gifts, Fattah lobbied senators, White House staffers, and even President Obama in an effort to land the fund-raiser an appointment as a foreign ambassador.
And in her 2014 testimony before the grand jury, outlined for jurors Tuesday, Leek said Fattah had mentioned at the time that he felt that his decision to press a letter touting Vederman's credentials directly into the president's hand at a 2010 event would be the extra step sure to secure the fund-raiser's appointment.
Leek also testified before the grand jury about her knowledge of Vederman's purchase in 2012 of a Porsche convertible owned by Fattah's wife, former NBC10 news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah.
Prosecutors say the car sale was a sham staged to cover up an $18,000 bribe Vederman paid the congressman and that Chenault-Fattah kept the Porsche for years afterward.
When Leek learned it was still parked in the congressman's garage more than two years after the sale, she recalled thinking that "it did seem strange at the time," she said in grand jury testimony read to jurors Tuesday.
"But [Fattah] assured me that he followed up thoroughly with Mr. Vederman," she told the grand jury.
In addition to the loan and bribery schemes, Fattah is accused of misappropriating campaign funds and federal grant money under his control to pay off personal and political debts. His other codefendants include Karen Nicholas, who ran an education nonprofit he founded; Robert Brand, a longtime Fattah family friend; and Bonnie Bowser, the chief of staff in the congressman's West Philadelphia office.
Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday.