Federal Appeals Tosses Fortenberry Conviction On Procedural Grounds


     A 3-judge panel of the 9th U-S Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed on technical grounds former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s federal conviction for lying to the FBI during an investigation into illegal campaign contributions.

      Fortenberry was convicted in March of last year by a jury in California, but the appeals court agreed with his attorneys that the case should have been tried elsewhere. Fortenberry says he and his wife are gratified by the decision.

      The charges against him were based on interviews in Nebraska and Washington, DC. Prosecutors argued the California was a proper venue because the illegal campaign contribution occurred there.

       The Appeals Court judges blasted that justification, writing “The only connection between Fortenberry and the Central District of California, where he was tried and convicted, was that the agents worked in a Los Angeles office.”

     They went on to write “This outlandish outcome cannot be squared with the Constitution…the Venue and Vicinage Clauses command that a trial be held where the crime was committed.”

       The ruling did not address the merits of the case and the dismissal was without prejudice, meaning prosecutors can refile the charges and try the case in Nebraska or Washington.

        A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles says prosecutors are evaluating potential next steps

      Fortenberry was convicted on charges that he lied to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his 2016 campaign from a foreign billionaire at a Los Angeles fundraiser that year.

      Fortenberry denied to the FBI that he was aware he had received illicit funds from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent.