An ex-Representative from Nebraska was given probation for lying to authorities.
Former Republican congressman Jeff Fortenberry said in March that he was leaving office because he had been found guilty of three felonies in a Los Angeles federal court.
Jeff Fortenberry, a former Republican representative from Nebraska, was found guilty in a federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday of lying to investigators looking into illegal donations to his 2016 re-election campaign. He was given two years of probation on Tuesday.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California said on Tuesday that Mr. Fortenberry, who is 61 years old, must also pay a $25,000 fine and do 320 hours of community service.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. said in court on Tuesday that Mr. Fortenberry “turned a blind eye and a deaf ear” to information that a foreign national paid for $30,000 in donations made at a fund-raiser in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said that Mr. Fortenberry knew about this information but chose to ignore it.
John L. Littrell, an attorney for Mr. Fortenberry, said on Tuesday that the judge had “shown grace” in deciding how to punish him. The prosecutors had been arguing for a six-month prison sentence.
Mr. Littrell said, “We’re glad that the judge sees Jeff Fortenberry for who he really is: a kind statesman who served his country with honor.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said that Mr. Fortenberry was a career politician who “clearly broke his oath of office by lying repeatedly and misleading federal investigators.”
The lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins, said that while the judge’s sentence took into account the defendant’s history of public service, it also “highlighted his view that our successful prosecution will stop other federal officials from taking the same illegal path” as the defendant.
Mr. Fortenberry said in March that he was leaving Congress because he had been found guilty of three felonies in a federal court in Los Angeles. He had been found guilty of two counts of making false statements and one count of lying about and hiding important facts.
In a letter to his colleagues in March, he said he was leaving Congress on March 31.
In the letter, Mr. Fortenberry said, “It was an honor to work with you in the U.S. House of Representatives.” “Because my life is hard right now, I can no longer serve in an effective way.”
After the verdict, leaders from both parties, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the leader of the minority party, asked him to step down.
In a newsletter he sent to his constituents, Mr. Fortenberry wrote, “It is my sincere hope that I have helped make America and our great state of Nebraska a better place.”
In 2004, Mr. Fortenberry became a member of Congress for the first time. Before resigning, he gave up his committee positions, such as his seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, as required by Republican conference rules for members facing federal indictments.
Mr. Fortenberry was charged after he said he didn’t know that Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire who was accused of plotting to give illegal donations to American politicians, gave $30,000 to his campaign at a fundraiser in Los Angeles in 2016. Foreigners can’t give money to U.S. political campaigns, so Mr. Chagoury had to pay a $1.8 million fine after making a deal with the U.S. government.
In 2019, federal investigators talked to Mr. Fortenberry for the first time as part of a probe into the money Mr. Chagoury gave to multiple candidates between 2012 and 2016. Mr. Fortenberry was charged in October, and after a week-long trial, he was found guilty this week.