Lawyers for former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, convicted of 3 felonies for lying to federal investigators about an illegal campaign contribution, have asked the trial judge to throw out the jury verdict.
They argue that lying to federal agents isn’t a crime unless the lies are “material” and have an impact on the overall investigation.
Fortenberry’s attorneys say when he was interviewed in 2019 about the 2016 donation, one of several made to multiple politicians by a foreign billionaire, the agents had already determined the extent of the overall case.
They maintain that the investigators questioned Fortenberry only to determine if his statements – that he was unaware that he had received any illegal donations – were false.
They argue the law criminalizes only false statements or acts of concealment that are a “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation,” and that Fortenberry’s weren’t since they didn’t affect the underlying case.
The attorneys also contend the federal law is unconstitutionally vague and therefore should be thrown out.
District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld has already rejected defense motions to throw out the case on materiality grounds and the jury, in its unanimous verdict, ruled that Fortenberry’s actions were material and criminal.
The former congressman, who resigned not long after his conviction, faces up to 5 years in prison on each count June 28th – the same day as a special election to his old seat for the rest of his term, which ends in January.