Appeals Court Throws Out Conviction Against Former Lawmaker

Appeals Court Throws Out Conviction Against Former Lawmaker

( – In March 2022, a federal jury in California found former US Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) guilty of lying to a federal authority about a $30,000 illegal campaign contribution from foreign billionaire Gilbert Chagoury of Nigeria. The jury found Fortenberry concealed material facts, made false statements, and falsified material facts concerning the donation. Another court recently threw out his conviction.

On December 26, CBS News reported the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals tossed the verdict from 2022 because they determined that the trial was conducted in the wrong venue. US District Judge James Donato wrote a 23-page opinion on the matter, stating Fortenberry’s trial shouldn’t have taken place in California because “no charged crime was committed” in that state. Instead, the former politician should have been tried in Nebraska or Washington, DC.

The appeals court said the United States Constitution is very clear on this matter, stating a criminal defendant must be tried in the “place where the criminal conduct occurred.” Because Fortenberry’s charges involved lying instead of “violating election law[s],” California was not an appropriate place for the trial. However, since the court’s decision resulted in a reversal, prosecutors from Nebraska or Washington, D.C. could bring charges against the former legislator if they so choose.

Fortenberry resigned from the House following his conviction, had to pay a $25,000 fine, and received two years probation for his crime. In a statement given to The New York Times, Fortenberry and his wife said they were “gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision,” and they thanked all those who supported them throughout their ordeal.

According to Axios, spokesman Thom Mrozek from the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said prosecutors were already reviewing potential next steps in the case. Neither the Justice Department nor prosecutors from more appropriate venues have made any official statements about the matter so far.

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