The guilty verdict of former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) for misrepresenting facts to the FBI about an unlawful campaign contribution has been reversed by a federal appeals court. The judges determined Fortenberry was not prosecuted in the appropriate jurisdiction.
The Hill reported that in 2022, a Los Angeles jury “convicted Fortenberry for false statements he made during interviews in Nebraska and the nation’s capital.”
According to the source, he voluntarily stepped down from his position in Congress and received two years probation, a fine of $25,000, and community service (320 hours). The Hill reported that “Tuesday’s decision reverses that sentence, although Fortenberry could still be retried.”
“Fortenberry’s trial took place in a state where no charged crime was committed, and before a jury drawn from the vicinage of the federal agencies that investigated the defendant,” stated U.S. District Judge James Donato, who served on the appeals court’s panel.
The 23-page ruling stated, “The Constitution does not permit this. Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed so that he may be retried, if at all, in a proper venue.”
Additionally, The Hill reported:
Authorities charged Fortenberry after interviewing him, as they investigated a $30,200 donation from a Nigerian businessman to the then-congressman’s campaign at a 2016 fundraising event in California.
Federal law prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals to any local, state, or federally elected official.
But prosecutors did not charge Fortenberry over the contribution itself, instead prosecuting him on two counts of making false statements and one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts.
Fortenberry asserted to FBI agents that he had no knowledge of any illicit campaign donations. Nevertheless, as stated in the court documents, the bureau intercepted a prior phone conversation when a witness who was working with the investigation informed the congressman during the time that the Nigerian entrepreneur was highly probable to be the donor.
The original judge granted permission for a jury to proceed with the trial in California. This decision was taken after determining that the offense of making false statements can occur not solely where the statements were uttered, but also where they have an impact on a federal inquiry. The investigation into the contribution was carried out by the Los Angeles FBI.
Donato, who was appointed by former President Obama, stated that “We conclude that an effects-based test for venue of a Section 1001 offense has no support in the Constitution, the text of the statute, or historical practice.”
The panel also included Circuit Judges Gabriel Sanchez and Salvador Mendoza Jr., both of whom were chosen by President Biden, as reported by The Hill.
“We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Celeste and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship,” Fortenberry stated.
Last week, former President Donald Trump utilized the platform Truth Social to proclaim his triumph following the decision of the Michigan Supreme Court to dismiss a case aiming to prevent Trump from appearing on that state’s primary ballot for the 2024 election. The Michigan Supreme Court has a Democratic majority.
“The Michigan Supreme Court has strongly and rightfully denied the Desperate Democrat attempt to take the leading Candidate in the 2024 Presidential Election, me, off the ballot in the Great State of Michigan. This pathetic gambit to rig the Election has failed all across the Country, including in States that have historically leaned heavily toward the Democrats. Colorado is the only State to have fallen prey to the scheme,” expressed Trump.
Subsequently, he directed his focus towards the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court, which prohibited him from participating in the state’s 2024 election ballot. This action has faced significant disapproval from legal experts.
“We have to prevent the 2024 Election from being Rigged and Stolen like they stole 2020 – just look at the complete mess we have as a result with Crooked Joe Biden violently destroying everything in his sight, from our once-great Economy to our once-fair Justice System,” former President Trump added. “We have to save our Country from decline and the Radical Left. Make America Great Again!”
“We have to prevent the 2024 Election from being Rigged and Stolen like they stole 2020 – just look at the complete mess we have as a result with Crooked Joe Biden violently destroying everything in his sight, from our once-great Economy to our once-fair Justice System…MAGA!” pic.twitter.com/rC3x3ienG7
— Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) December 27, 2023
Leftist legal groups have advocated for the removal of Trump from primary ballots in over a dozen states. The challenges reference Section III of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits previous officeholders of the United States who took an oath to support the Constitution yet have participated in “insurrection” from seeking federal office.
That section of the 14th Amendment reads:
No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Although Trump has neither been prosecuted nor convicted of instigating a “insurrection” on January 6, 2021, the Colorado Supreme Court issued the unusual order to take him off the ballot.
On Tuesday, ABC News reported: “Trump’s legal team as early as Tuesday could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court the Colorado Supreme Court decision barring him from the GOP primary ballot under the 14th Amendment.”
Trump’s team has already said it intends to appeal the decision, which said that Trump violated Section 3 of the amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding office, over his role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
His team also plans on appealing the Maine secretary of state’s decision keeping him off that state’s primary ballot on the same grounds — through that state’s appellate courts.
Both rulings have been stayed to allow appeals to be considered. The Colorado Republican Party has already appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that state’s high court decision.