Appeals Court Overturns Conviction of Former GOP Congressman for FBI Lying

Donato wrote, “We conclude that an effects-based test for venue of a Section 1001 offense has no support in the Constitution, the text of the statute, or historical practice.” 

In a significant development, an appeals court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for lying to the FBI about an illicit campaign contribution.

The court ruled that the trial took place in an improper venue, with U.S. District Judge James Donato criticizing the trial location, noting it was conducted in a state unrelated to the alleged crime. Donato emphasized the unconstitutional jury selection from the vicinity of investigating federal agencies, stating, “Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed for a potential retrial in a proper venue.”

In the prior year, Fortenberry received a two-year probation, a $25,000 fine, and 320 hours of community service from a Los Angeles federal judge after being convicted of providing false information to authorities about an unlawful campaign donation.

He opted to resign from his position soon after the conviction. Prosecutors claimed Fortenberry misled federal agents multiple times regarding a $30,000 illegal campaign contribution from a Nigerian billionaire during a 2016 fundraiser in Los Angeles.

Judge Donato’s ruling emphasized that applying an effects-based test for the trial venue lacked constitutional, statutory, or historical backing. As a result, the conviction was reversed without prejudice, allowing for the possibility of a retrial in an appropriate venue.

The judicial panel overseeing the case comprised Salvador Mendoza Jr. and Gabriel Sanchez.

Fortenberry, in response to the decision, conveyed gratitude and acknowledged the support received from various sources. In a statement, he and his spouse Celeste extended their thanks to those who stood by them during this challenging period.

“We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Celeste and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship,” Fortenberry said in a statement, according to The Hill.