GOP Rep’s Case Against Him Overturned In Court

Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska had an appellate court reverse his federal conviction on Tuesday. The court ruled that Fortenberry should not have been tried in Los Angeles, citing an improper trial venue.

In March 2022, Fortenberry was found guilty of providing false information to federal authorities regarding a $30,000 unauthorized campaign contribution from a foreign billionaire during a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser. Faced with mounting pressure from congressional leaders and Nebraska’s GOP governor, he resigned shortly after the conviction.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Fortenberry’s false statements occurred during interviews with federal agents at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, and in his lawyer’s office in Washington. Therefore, the trial venue in Los Angeles was deemed inappropriate.

The decision stated, “Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed so that he may be retried, if at all, in a proper venue.”

The potential impact of this ruling on federal prosecutors in Washington is yet to be determined. Patricia Hartman, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesperson for the District of Columbia, declined to comment.

Throughout the trial in Los Angeles, a federal jury declared the nine-term Republican guilty of withholding information and committing two counts of making false statements to authorities. On the steps of the courthouse, he announced his plan to appeal.

Fortenberry faced charges due to an FBI inquiry into $180,000 in illicit contributions to four campaigns from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire with Lebanese roots living in Paris at that time. Chagoury confessed to the offense in 2019 and consented to a $1.8 million fine. During the trial, prosecutors introduced recorded phone conversations wherein Fortenberry was consistently cautioned about the origin of the contributions.

Jeff Fortenberry and his wife, Celeste Fortenberry, conveyed their appreciation for the court’s ruling. Jeff Fortenberry stated, “We are pleased with the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Celeste and I extend our thanks to everyone who believed in us, offering their friendship and kindness.”

Representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles have not commented on the ruling.