• U.S. Appellate Court Reversed Former Congressman Jeffrey Fortenberry’s Conviction On Jurisdictional Grounds

    December 26, 2023
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    A U.S. federal appellate court decision in San Francisco on Tuesday reversed a 2022 federal conviction against nine-term former U.S. Congressman Jeffrey Fortenberry of Nebraska by ruling that he should not have been tried in Los Angeles on criminal charges

    In March 2022, Fortenberry was convicted on charges that he lied to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a Nigerian billionaire at a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser. 

    Upon conviction, Fortenberry resigned days later. He was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine. 

    In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruling, the decision states that the trial venue of Los Angeles was improper because Fortenberry made the alleged false statements to federal agents at his Lincoln, Nebraska home and in his lawyer’s office in Washington, D.C.

    “Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed so that he may be retried, if at all, in a proper venue,” the decision reads.

    The republican lawmaker was found guilty of concealing information and two counts of making false statements to authorities. He vowed to appeal from the courthouse steps at the time of his conviction.

    “We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision,” Jeff Fortenberry said in a statement upon the reversed decision. “Celeste and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship.”

    “The ruling does not preclude a retrial on the charges that then-Congressman Fortenberry made multiple false statements to federal agents,” said Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. “We are evaluating potential next steps before deciding how best to move forward.”

    Fortenberry claimed that he was unaware he had received illegal campaign donations from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent.

    At Fortenberry’s trial, prosecutors presented recorded phone conversations in which Fortenberry was repeatedly warned that the contributions came from Gilbert Chagoury. The donations were funneled through three strawmen.

    The conviction originated from an FBI investigation into $180,000 of campaign contributions to four campaigns connected to Chagoury, who lived in Paris at the time. Chagoury gave $30,000 to Fortenberry's campaign. 

    Chagoury admitted that he made those contributions in 2019 and agreed to pay a $1.8 million fine.

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    Christine Dolan

    Christine Dolan is a seasoned Investigative Journalist, television producer, author, and photographer. She is Co-Founder of American Conversations whose format focuses on in-depth analysis of critical issues about “the story behind the headlines.”
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