Former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry appeals conviction
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has appealed his conviction following what his legal team says was an “unprecedented prosecution.”
Fortenberry was convicted earlier this year and sentenced to probation for lying to the FBI. An earlier appeal was filed the day after his conviction.
The former Congressman filed an appeal Friday evening with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit following an “unprecedented prosecution in which the Department of Justice hauled a sitting member of Congress across the country to stand trial in a foreign jurisdiction on charges of making false statements more than a thousand miles away.”
“The case against Jeff Fortenberry never should have been brought in the first place, and certainly never should have resulted in charges in California or a conviction,” said Glen Summers, a leading member of Fortenberry’s legal team and a partner with Bartlit Beck LLP.
The appeal claims the conviction should be overturned for having an improper venue and inadequate jury instructions.
Fortenberry’s appeal says the venue was improper because his alleged false statements were made in Nebraska and Washington, D.C., but the charges were filed in California.
The appeal also says inadequate jury instructions existed as they “failed to appropriately define a key element of the charge – the materiality of Fortenberry’s statements.”
“For a statement to be material to an investigation – and thus eligible for a false statements charge – the law requires it to be capable of influencing a particular governmental decision,” Fortenberry’s legal team said in a press release. “Fortenberry’s statements were not material to the government’s investigation because prosecutors already knew from their own investigation, before interviewing Fortenberry, that he had no knowledge of the illegal contributions to his campaign.”