Court Reverses Republican’s Conviction

( – Justice once again is served as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the conviction of a former Republican Representative from Nebraska, ruling that his trial for lying to the FBI about an illegal campaign contribution was improperly held in Los Angeles.

The decision was influenced by the fact that none of the charged crimes Jeff Fortenberry, former Republican Representative, was accused of occurred in the state where the trial took place.

Judge James Donato, appointed by former President Obama and serving on the appeals court, noted, “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.”

Fortenberry had faced charges in Los Angeles for making false statements during interviews with the FBI regarding a $30,200 donation from a Nigerian businessman to his 2016 campaign in California. Federal law prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals. While not charged for the contribution itself, Fortenberry’s convictions were for lying about his knowledge of the illegal funds and for attempting to conceal these facts.

Interestingly, the false statements that formed the basis of the charges were made in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln, Nebraska – not in California. The FBI’s Los Angeles field office had been handling the investigation into the contribution, which led to the trial’s location being in California. A trial judge had previously ruled that false statement violations can affect a federal investigation anywhere, not just where the statements were made.

The appellate court’s decision, which included input from Judges Gabriel Sanchez and Salvador Mendoza Jr., both appointed by President Biden, emphasized that the venue of the trial was not constitutionally or legally appropriate. “We conclude that an effects-based test for the venue of a Section 1001 offense has no support in the Constitution, the text of the statute, or historical practice,” wrote Judge Donato.

While this ruling reverses Fortenberry’s sentence, it leaves open the possibility of a retrial in a more suitable venue. Fortenberry, along with his wife Celeste, expressed gratitude for the Ninth Circuit’s decision and thanked those who supported them through this ordeal.