Rep. Chaka Fattah found guilty on federal corruption charges

A Philadelphia jury delivered a guilty verdict on Tuesday for Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who was convicted on 29 separate federal charges related to bribery, money laundering, fraud and racketeering.

Fattah, 59, who lost his primary bid in April, gave no indication he planned to resign from his seat in Congress.

{mosads}He faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison following Tuesday’s conviction. Several of the charges he was convicted on carry sentences of 20 years each.

“Today’s decision notwithstanding, it has been my privilege to serve the constituents of the Second Congressional District for over 20 years,” Fattah said in a statement released hours after the verdict.

“While today’s outcome isn’t what we had hoped, I respect our nation’s judicial system,” he said.

Fattah is expected to face significant pressure to resign from Congress before his term finishes at the end of this year.

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) resigned his House seat within a week of pleading guilty to felony tax fraud in 2014. 

In October 2013, then-Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) initially ignored pressure from GOP officials to step down after he was caught buying cocaine at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. He pleaded guilty to the charges in November of that year but didn’t step down for another two months.

Fattah could appeal his conviction ahead of the sentencing on Oct. 4.

In the meantime, House rules state that any member convicted of a crime potentially resulting in a minimum of two years in prison “should refrain” from voting on the floor and participating in committee work.

Fattah would fit that qualification. The charges related to conspiracy, falsification of records and mail fraud each carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison. 

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did not immediately release a statement on Fattah’s conviction.

The jury convicted Fattah on money laundering charges related to his borrowing of $1 million from a donor during his unsuccessful campaign for Philadelphia mayor. Fattah later repaid part of the loan by using funds from charitable and federal grants received by his nonprofit, the Educational Advancement Alliance.

The jury also found Fattah guilty of using funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to help pay off his son’s student loan debt.

Fattah was also found guilty of accepting bribes while trying to secure an ambassadorship or appointment to the U.S. Trade Commission for former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman.

Additionally, Fattah was convicted of helping to award federal grant money to a political consultant in exchange for forgiving a $130,000 campaign debt. Fattah allegedly told the consultant to apply for a $15 million grant, which he did not receive.

The White House said the Fattah probe shows that federal investigators act without political interference — an apparent shot at Republicans who say they’re incapable of carrying out an unbiased investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server. 

Press secretary Josh Earnest would not comment on the verdict itself, but he called the case “good evidence” that the Justice Department “is faithful to their mandate to pursue justice irrespective of political affiliations.”

When Fattah was indicted in July 2014, the 11-term lawmaker immediately relinquished his post as the top Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department.

His defeat in April’s primary made him the first incumbent lawmaker to lose a primary this year.

The other four associates charged were Vederman; Bonnie Bowser, who served as Fattah’s Philadelphia-based district director; political consultant Robert Brand; and former Fattah aide Karen Nicholas.

While Fattah was convicted of all charges, the jury only convicted the four others on some of the charges against them. 

—Jordan Fabian contributed

This story was updated at 7:00 p.m. 

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