A jury has convicted a Pennsylvania congressman on trial in a racketeering case.
via Chaka Fattah Found Guilty On All Charges In Federal Corruption Trial — CBS Philly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A veteran Pennsylvania congressman was convicted Tuesday in a racketeering case that largely centered on various efforts to repay an illegal $1 million campaign loan.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah was found guilty of all counts against him, including racketeering, fraud and money laundering. His lawyers had argued that the schemes were engineered without Fattah’s knowledge by two political consultants who pleaded guilty in the case.
Fattah later issued a written statement on the jury verdict:
“This is an extraordinarily difficult day for me and my family. A jury has decided that based on the evidence presented to them that I am guilty of charges presented by the government. Today’s decision notwithstanding, it has been my privilege to serve the constituents of the Second Congressional District for over 20 years. We have done important work and passed legislation that has helped tens of millions of young people achieve their dream of a college education, ensured that hundreds of thousands of families facing foreclosure have been able to remain in their homes, and millions suffering from brain related diseases now have hope that a cure or a treatment is closer today than yesterday. I continue to be proud of that record. While today’s outcome isn’t what we had hoped, I respect our nation’s judicial system. I want to thank the people of the Second Congressional District for the honor of serving them.”
The 59-year-old Democrat had been in Congress since 1995 and served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. But he lost the April primary and his bid for another term.
Prosecutors said Fattah routed federal grant money and nonprofit funds through his consultants to pay back the illegal loan.
Justice Department lawyer Jonathan Kravis said in his closing argument that Fattah also used federal grants and nonprofit funds to enrich his family and friends.
Defense lawyers acknowledged Fattah might have gotten himself infinancial trouble after a costly 2007 mayoral bid, but they said any help from friends amounted to gifts, not bribes.
Many of them came from co-defendant Herbert Vederman, a wealthy friend who had dreams of scoring an ambassadorship. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, testified that he never took the pitch from Fattah too seriously, even though Fattah once bent the president’s ear about it. Democrat Ed Rendell, a former mayor and governor, was called to defend Vederman, his former deputy mayor. He said Vederman was qualified for the job and accused prosecutors of cynically misreading the help he lent Fattah.
Vederman helped support Fattah’s South African nanny and paid $18,000 for a Porsche owned by Fattah’s TV anchor wife.
“The nanny, the Porsche and the Poconos, they weren’t part of a bribery scheme,” Fattah lawyer Samuel Silver argued in closings. “Those were all overreaches by the prosecution.”
The campaign loan was just one of several schemes prosecutors outlined during the trial. They say Fattah was aided in his endeavors by current and former staffers who ran his district office or the nonprofits; by Vederman, who now lives in Palm Beach, Florida; and by political consultants Greg Naylor and Thomas Lindenfeld, who pleaded guilty.
The other co-defendants are Bonnie Bowser, of Philadelphia, who ran his district office; Karen Nicholas, of Williamstown, New Jersey, who ran theeducation nonprofit Fattah started; and Robert Brand, of Philadelphia, a businessman married to a former Fattah staffer. The jury on Tuesday came back with a mixed verdict for them.
After the verdict, Fattah said, “A very tough day. I will confer with my lawyers and figure out what our next steps are.”
The judge will now need to decide on bail for Fattah.
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