Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fattah seeks to have corruption conviction overturned

Ex-Congressman Chaka Fattah wants his corruption  conviction overturned

Philly.com staff writer Jeremy Roebuck reports:
U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah leaned heavily on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the definition of political bribery in asking a federal court in Philadelphia on Monday to overturn his conviction on corruption charges.

The ex-congressman's lawyers had telegraphed the move after the high court vacated the conviction of ex-Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell in June - a decision that came days after a federal jury found Fattah guilty on 22 counts in a case with some parallels.

In overturning the McDonnell verdict, the justices sketched out more precise guidelines for prosecutors building cases under the law that bars public officials from taking gifts in exchange for official actions. That standard should be applied to Fattah's case, his attorney Bruce Merenstein said in court filings late Monday before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III.

"The Supreme Court's McDonnell decision undercuts every one of the arguments the government made here that Congressman Fattah committed or agreed to commit an 'official act,' " Merenstein wrote. "Indeed, the government's arguments in this case as to what constituted an 'official act' tracked precisely the arguments rejected by the Supreme Court in McDonnell."

Prosecutors have not yet responded to the congressman's new legal arguments, but previously dismissed the idea that the McDonnell decision would have a significant impact on Fattah's case.

Bartle, who presided over the trial of Fattah and four co-defendants in June, has not signaled whether he intends to hold a hearing on the arguments.

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