Judge rejects Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s bid to dismiss charges
A federal judge on Monday shot down Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s (R-Neb.) attempt to dismiss the charges he is facing for allegedly lying to authorities about illegal campaign contributions.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. denied the congressman’s motion to dismiss the case, The Associated Press reported.
Fortenberry’s attorneys had argued that the charges should be dropped on the grounds that the congressman gave his statement to authorities in his home in Nebraska and in Washington, D.C., rather than in the judicial district of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, where the suit was filed.
In October, Fortenberry was indicted for allegedly concealing information and making false statements to authorities regarding illegal campaign contributions funneled into the U.S. from Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury. According to authorities, a group in California funneled $30,000 of Chagoury’s money to Fortenberry’s 2016 campaign.
Foreign nationals are forbidden from contributing to U.S. election campaigns. The co-host of a fundraiser for Fortenberry allegedly informed him in 2016 that the funds “probably did come from Gilbert Chagoury.”
But the indictment against the congressman alleges that despite being informed of the origin of the funds, Fortenberry failed to file an amended report wit the Federal Election Commission.
Blumenfeld wrote that “because Defendant’s allegedly false statements were directed at federal investigative efforts occurring in this district, the Court finds that venue is proper in the Central District of California.”
In addition to Fortenberry’s motion to dismiss the charges, the AP reported that Blumenfeld also rejected the representative’s arguments that he did not have a legal duty to disclose the information about the contributions, as well as his claim that prosecutors had trumped up multiple charges from one offense.
The judge also denied a motion to dismiss a prosecutor who Fortenberry’s attorneys have claimed misled the congressman on why authorities wanted to interview him.
“This case still has enormous flaws, which have existed from the earliest days of the investigation and remain even after today’s decision,” Fortenberry campaign spokesperson Chad Kolton said, according to the AP.
“Mr. Fortenberry has always had great faith in the American people’s ability to judge what is fair and just. Nebraskans will see this case clearly for what it is: a California prosecutor’s attempt to use deceptive investigative tactics to set up a widely respected member of Congress,” Kolton said.
The Hill has reached out to Fortenberry’s attorneys for further comment.
The indictment against Fortenberry, which was returned by a federal jury last year, alleged that he “knowingly and willfully falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device material facts” about the campaign contributions.”
Soon after he was indicted, Fortenberry stepped down from his committee assignments, as is required by House rules.
The Nebraska representative has maintained that he committed no wrongdoing. In a video statement last year, he said, “We will fight these charges. I did not lie to them.”
“About 5 1/2 years ago, a person from overseas illegally moved money to my campaign — I didn’t know anything about this — and used some other Americans to do so they were all caught and punished thankfully,” he said.
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