Fortenberry asks for new trial in California appeals court

The former congressman was convicted in federal court last year
California appeals court heard the case of former congressman Jeff Fortenberry on Tuesday.
Published: Jul. 11, 2023 at 7:16 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry asked a federal appeals court for a new trial Tuesday.

The nine-term congressman resigned last year after his conviction for making false statements regarding a federal investigation into illegal campaign contributions.

Fortenberry’s team believes California should have been the last place to try the case.

“A man’s life is in ruins because prosecutors chose to try the case in California,” Fortenberry’s attorney, Kannon Shanmugam, said during court proceedings Tuesday. “We would submit that the congressman is entitled to a new trial.”

Fortenberry could have gotten jail time but instead received probation as punishment when a jury found him guilty last year.

The jury believed he made false statements -- twice to investigators -- when it came to their probe into a Nigerian businessman giving improper donations to lawmakers.

The federal judge last year ruled that the Central District of California worked as a venue since that’s where the fundraiser to place -- and his false statements were about the aforementioned fundraiser.

The 9th Circuit of Appeals is being asked about whether it was constitutional.

“The reason the investigation was in the Central District of California is because the defendant chose to have the fundraiser in Los Angeles,” Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Robbins said. “The defendant reached out to the doctor in Los Angeles asking for another fundraiser in California. He chose that location. That’s what got the FBI involved with the doctor and the defendant. The defendant chose the timing and the second meeting D.C -- the defendant chose that too.”

The hearing lasted 37 minutes. It’s not clear when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule whether Fortenberry gets a new trial, or if the original case and guilty verdict stand.