U.S. Government recommending prison time in case against former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The United State Attorneys Office is asking a Los Angeles judge to sentence former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about illegal campaign contributions, while Fortenberry’s team is asking for no prison time at all.
The parties in the case filed sentencing memorandums ahead of the June 28th sentencing which will take place in federal court in Los Angeles.
In addition to the six-month prison sentence, the government is also asking for two years of supervised release, a $30,000 fine, and 150 hours of community service.
“Defendant Jeffrey Fortenberry was a powerful career politician who swore an oath to support and defend the United States and to serve the interests of his constituents. Defendant violated that oath, and broke the law when he repeatedly chose to serve himself, his political career and his ego,” the government writes in the documents.
Fortenberry was convicted of three counts of lying to the FBI in the course of an investigation into $30,000 in foreign national and conduit donations made to his campaign during a 2016 fundraiser.
The government said Fortenberry premeditated the plan and made a calculated decision to lie and mislead federal investigators. They also said in the documents he used his status as a lawmaker to intimidate investigators. The documents also said Fortenberry continues to not take accountability for his actions.
“A meaningful term of imprisonment is appropriate and necessary. A meaningful prison term is also necessary to deter other powerful public officials who might venture down the defendant’s unlawful path of lies and obstruction in hopes their powerful position will shield them from inquiry,” the documents read.
Fortenberry’s attorneys are asking for a sentence of one year of probation without a fine.
Their sentencing memorandum describes Fortenberry as a committed father of five and devoted husband and public servant.
“The conviction in this case devastatingly impacted Mr. Fortenberry’s life,” Fortenberry’s attorneys said. “Once a revered public servant, Mr. Fortenberry resigned from Congress. Stripped of the rights to vote and possess a firearm, Mr. Fortenberry cannot even participate in our democracy. The federal pension he relied on for retirement is now in jeopardy.”
Their documents said sentencing guidelines do not call for imprisonment in this case and it is unwarranted.
“The painful collateral consequences of this conviction have already achieved any deterrence that this prosecution could achieve,” Fortenberry’s attorneys said. “There is no danger to the public. Mr. Fortenberry has lead an extraordinary and rigorously law-abiding life over his 61 years. He will continue to do good for others.”
The documents detail the challenges Fortenberry faced in his life from an early age, including his parents’ divorce, father’s death when he was a child, and bullying he faced in school. Letters from Fortenberry’s wife and five daughters are included in the sentencing recommendations, including one from his daughter, Kathryn, who has congestive heart failure and requires medical care.
The documents also said the government shouldn’t impose a fine because the conviction is not for a financial crime and lying to the FBI didn’t benefit Fortenberry financially because he had already donated the $30,000 from his campaign. It also said Fortenberry’s family relies on him financially.
The sentencing is set for June 28, the same day as the special election in which either Republican Mike Flood or Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks will be chosen to fill Fortenberry’s vacant seat in Congressional District 1.
Along with the submission of sentencing recommendations, came evidence not previously released online. This includes text messages between Fortenberry and those who helped funnel the illegal contributions and transcripts of the interviews between Fortenberry and the FBI in which he lied about his knowledge.
Below are screenshots of some of those documents:
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