‘He turned a blind eye and deaf ear’: Judge rules no prison time for former congressman convicted of lying to the FBI

The former congressman faced 15 years in federal prison for lying to the FBI
Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 2:28 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A Los Angeles judge handed former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry two years probation and a $25k fine Tuesday morning.

Judge Stanley Blumenfeld said that Fortenberry turned a quote, “blind eye and deaf ear” to the illegal campaign donations being funneled his way .

Three months ago, Representative Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress after a California jury convicted him of lying to federal authorities about campaign donations from a foreign national.

Some call the crime odd, given Fortenberry’s heavy war chest and consistent double-digit winning record.

University of Maryland Law Professor Mark Graber explains, “If you’re in Congress, it’s never enough. You want a big war chest to scare off challengers, the bigger the better.”

Fortenberry released a statement saying quote, “I will be appealing this verdict. We are continuing the fight for fairness that we’ve waged throughout this process.”

But Graber thinks the damage has been done.

He said, “nobody thinks being convicted of lying to the FBI is a boon to a political career.”

Fortenberry’s sentence is lenient compared to other congressmen convicted of crimes.

Back in 2001, Democratic Representative Jim Traficant of Ohio was hit with 10 federal charges, including bribery and racketeering.  He spent eight years in prison.

In 2018, Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican out of California was indicted on 60 counts of fraud stemming from campaign finance violations.  He was sentenced to 11 months in prison.

And Jesse Jackson Jr. - the son of the civil rights activist – spent three years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges surrounding his campaign for the US house of representatives.

While there is no law that a convicted felon can’t hold office - None of them was re-elected.

2 years probation is a far cry from the 15 year maximum sentence he faced for his crimes.

Professor Graber says he isn’t surprised that no jail time was handed down, explaining that there is often more leniency for white collar crimes.

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