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Ex-Congressman’s Conviction Thrown Out by Appeals Court Over Venue Issue

A federal appeals court has made a significant decision by overturning the conviction of former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for making false statements to the FBI.

Venue Related Issue

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The court’s ruling is based on a venue-related issue, stating that Fortenberry should have been tried in the locations where the alleged false statements were made, not in California, where the trial took place.

Wrong Venue for Trial

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the trial of Jeff Fortenberry should have occurred in Nebraska or Washington, D.C., where the alleged false statements were made during the FBI’s investigation.

California Trial

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The trial had taken place in California, where no charged crime had occurred, and the jury was drawn from the vicinity of federal agencies unrelated to the case.

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Constitutional Concerns

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U.S. District Judge James Donato, in a 23-page opinion, highlighted constitutional concerns, stating that trying Fortenberry in a location unrelated to the alleged criminal conduct violated his rights. Donato’s opinion emphasized the need for a proper venue for criminal trials.

Original Conviction Details

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Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican, had been found guilty by a jury in 2022 of lying to federal authorities regarding a $30,000 illegal campaign contribution from a foreign national at a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

False Statements to the FBI

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The charges were related to false statements made during interviews with FBI agents in 2019, held at Fortenberry’s home in Nebraska and his lawyer’s office in Washington.

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Charge of Lying to Investigators

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It’s important to note that Fortenberry was not charged with violating election law; instead, his conviction pertained to lying to investigators during the FBI’s inquiry into illegal campaign contributions.

District Court’s Previous Ruling

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The district court had previously ruled that such violations could be tried where a false statement was made and impacted a federal investigation.

Sentencing and Resignation

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Following his conviction, Jeff Fortenberry resigned from Congress. He was subsequently sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.

Fortenberry’s Response

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In response to the Ninth Circuit’s decision, Jeff Fortenberry expressed his gratitude and that of his wife, Celeste, for the court’s ruling. He thanked those who had supported them throughout this legal ordeal with their kindness and friendship.

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