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Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry reindicted, this time in DC

An appeals court threw out his California conviction but said charges could be retried elsewhere

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., leaves a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol in 2014.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., leaves a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A Washington grand jury has indicted former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., on charges he made false statements during a campaign finance probe, months after a federal appeals court threw out his 2022 conviction on similar charges in California.

The indictment, released Thursday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, accuses Fortenberry of making false statements to investigators during a July 2019 interview in the District of Columbia and during a March 2019 interview at his residence in Lincoln, Neb.

Both interviews were connected to an investigation into illegal political campaign contributions from a foreign national to Fortenberry’s campaign and the campaigns of other federal candidates, with the probe seeking to find out whether any politicians were aware they received illegal contributions, the indictment states.

Prosecutors originally brought the case in California, where the investigators were based. Fortenberry, who resigned from Congress shortly after his conviction, was sentenced to two years of probation.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in December ruled that federal prosecutors brought criminal charges in the wrong location and could retry Fortenberry “if at all, in a proper venue.”

In the Washington indictment, Fortenberry now faces one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and one count of making false statements.

Officials had been investigating contributions from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian-born billionaire of Lebanese descent, according to the document.

During the interview in Washington, Fortenberry falsely stated that he had not been informed — during a 2018 phone call — that a consultant for Chagoury had given another person $30,000 in cash to help fund a 2016 fundraiser, the indictment states.

Fortenberry, also “falsely stated that he was not aware of any illicit contribution made during the 2016 Fundraiser,” the indictment states.

Chad Kolton, a spokesperson for Fortenberry, slammed the filing of charges in Washington, saying the case has defined “overzealous prosecution from the earliest days of the investigation.”

“Federal prosecutors should have better things to do than force a distinguished former public servant to incur massive additional legal costs despite already having resigned his office and performed his sentence from a conviction that was ultimately overturned,” Kolton said.

The Justice Department, he said, “seems intent on dragging Jeff Fortenberry around the country to face one trial after another until it can secure a conviction that actually holds up.”

In the 9th Circuit ruling, the court said the Constitution requires that a criminal defendant be tried in the location where the criminal conduct occurred.

“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,” the ruling said. “The Constitution does not permit this.”

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