For criminal-defense attorneys in D.C., this has been a Congress to remember.
As we first reported a year ago, then-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) got the ball rolling with an indictment and conviction. Two months later, then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) was forced to resign and still faces the threat of possible criminal charges. A month after that, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was indicted. A month after that, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was indicted and later sentenced to prison.
And two months after that, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) was added to the list, charged in a 29-count indictment, with charges that included bribery, fraud, and money laundering. Today, as the Philadelphia Daily News reported, the Democratic congressman was convicted.
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) was convicted Tuesday in a federal racketeering case likely to send him to prison.The verdict – announced by a jury of nine women and three men – comes after a four-week trial in which prosecutors alleged that Fattah took bribes and repeatedly stole charitable donations, campaign contributions and federal grant money under his control.
Fattah’s sentencing is set for Oct. 4.
Roll Call reported, “In a statement, Fattah acknowledged the conviction but stopped short of saying outright he had any plans to resign.” It’s hard to imagine how such a decision should be optional.
To be sure, Fattah is on his way out anyway. In April, the incumbent congressman lost in a Democratic primary to a state representative who enjoyed the overwhelming support of the party establishment who wanted nothing to do with an indicted lawmaker. Local voters evidently agreed.
But now that he’s literally been indicted on multiple federal criminal accounts – all of which relate to crimes committed in his professional capacity – I’d expect Fattah to face considerable pressure to step down before his term ends in January.
As for the exact nature of his crimes, Roll Call had a good overview last year:
The indictment alleges that in connection with his failed mayoral bid, Fattah and his associates borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter and disguised the funds as a loan to a consulting company, then created sham contracts and made false accounting records, tax returns and campaign finance disclosure statements.In addition, the indictment alleges that after his defeat in the mayoral election, Fattah sought to extinguish approximately $130,000 in campaign debt owed to a political consultant by agreeing to arrange for the award of federal grant funds to the consultant. According to the allegations in the indictment, Fattah directed the consultant to apply for a $15 million grant, which he did not ultimately receive, on behalf of a then non-existent nonprofit entity. In exchange for Fattah’s efforts to arrange the award of the funds to the nonprofit, the consultant allegedly agreed to forgive the debt owed by the campaign.The indictment further alleges that Fattah misappropriated funds from his mayoral and congressional campaigns to repay approximately $23,000 of his son’s student loan debt.
The Justice Department’s official statement on the congressman’s conviction is available online here.