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Court Overturns Former GOP Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s Conviction for Federal False Statements

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Former Republican Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) was acquitted of lying to the FBI about unlawful campaign contributions by a federal appeals court. Following his conviction for withholding facts and lying to federal authorities, Fortenberry, 62, resigned from the House in March 2022. The majority Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco found Fortenberry wrongfully tried in Los Angeles instead of Nebraska or Washington, DC.

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Former Congressman Fortenberry’s Conviction Overturned: Retrial Possible Due to Venue Error

Fortenberry received two years of probation, 320 hours of community service, and a $25,000 fine in June 2022. The court relied on the constitutional necessity that criminal defendants be tried where they committed crimes. US District Judge James Donato wrote for the panel that Fortenberry’s trial was held in a state with no charged crime and that the jury was recruited from federal agencies that investigated the case. Reversing the convictions allowed for a retrial in a suitable location.

Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian millionaire, wired $30,000 to Jeff Fortenberry’s 2016 House campaign using straw contributors at a Los Angeles fundraiser. Political campaign contributions by foreigners are illegal under federal law. Fundraiser co-host Chagoury and an acquaintance who gave straw donors monies collaborated with authorities.

According to an FBI interview in Nebraska in March 2019, Fortenberry claimed he was unaware of any foreign contributions to his campaign, despite the fundraiser co-host telling him in June that Chagoury likely donated $30,000. In a July 2019 FBI interview in Washington, Fortenberry repeated these claims.

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Appeals Court Emphasizes Consequences in Overturning Fortenberry Conviction

The court verdict stressed the necessity of punishing acts where a remark has consequences, not just false claims. Thanks to the Ninth Circuit’s decision and his legal supporters, Jeff Fortenberry said.

Judge James Donato, appointed by President Obama, and Judges Salvador Mendoza Jr. and Gabriel Sanchez, appointed by President Biden, were on the panel. This allows Fortenberry to be retried in a proper venue.

READ ALSO: Appeals court tosses ex-Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s conviction for lying to feds

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