Conviction against pro-life former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry overturned — By: Catholic News Agency

Former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska. / Credit: Public domain

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Dec 27, 2023 / 15:26 pm (CNA).

An appellate court has overturned the conviction of former Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who was accused of making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about allegations that he received about $30,000 in illegal campaign donations. 

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Fortenberry’s March 2022 jury conviction on Dec. 26, finding that the Central District of California, where he was convicted, was the improper venue for a trial. The appellate court overturned the conviction without prejudice, which means that he can be retried in the proper venue. 

Fortenberry expressed gratitude for the decision. 

“We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision,” he said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “Celeste [his wife] and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship.”

The appellate court decision notes that federal agents interviewed Fortenberry at his home in Lincoln, Nebraska, and interviewed his lawyer in Washington, D.C. He is accused of making false statements during the interview about allegedly receiving illegal campaign money through conduit donors in Los Angeles. 

Although the lower court claimed jurisdiction because the statements have “an effect on a federal investigation” in Los Angeles, the appellate court rejected that claim, finding that this interpretation has “no support in the Constitution, the text of the statute, or historical practice.”

“Fortenberry’s trial took place in a state where no charged crime was committed and before a jury drawn from the vicinage of the federal agencies that investigated the defendant,” the appellate court ruled. “The Constitution does not permit this. Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed so that he may be retried, if at all, in a proper venue.”

The appellate court’s decision overturned the conviction of three felonies: two counts of making false statements to federal agents and one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts. He resigned from Congress on March 31, one week after the conviction. 

Fortenberry was a Republican lawmaker from Nebraska, who had an A+ rating from the pro-life Susan B. Anthony list. In 2021, the congressman introduced the Care for Her Act, which would have facilitated support to women who face unplanned pregnancies. He also co-signed a congressional amicus brief that urged the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

The former lawmaker represented Nebraska’s first congressional district from January 2005 until March 2022. He was replaced by current Republican Rep. Mike Flood in a special election after he stepped down from office.

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