US Attorney wants prison for Fortenberry; he asks for probation

June 15, 2022, 6:15 p.m. ·

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry in a suit imposed in front of a legal document of court case.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry faces federal criminal charges. (Nebraska Public Media graphic)

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Jeff Fortenberry would spend six months in prison if federal prosecutors have their say. Fortenberry’s legal team is asking for no jail time and no fine.

A jury convicted Fortenberry of lying to F.B.I. agents investigating illegal campaign donations. A Lebanese-born billionaire routed $30,000 into his Congressional re-election campaign by using “straw donors,” hiding its origin from a non-U.S. citizen. Those who concocted the scheme provided evidence against their former political ally.

Federal District Judge Stanley Blumfeld in California will announce his sentence at a hearing scheduled for June 28.

Documents filed in federal court in Central California reveal a pre-sentence report provided to the Judge by federal probation officers recommends no prison time for Jeff Fortenberry. These reports include interviews with the convicted person, information about the offense, and the range of punishment allowed by federal law.

Excerpt from Fortenberry Sentencing Memo
An excerpt from the memo filed by Fortenberry's defense attorney.

In response to the report, the former Congressman’s legal team filed a memo agreeing that no jail time is required in this case. The memo argues that the guilty verdict alone “devastatingly impacted” Fortenberry’s life, causing him to resign his office and potentially lose his pension and the right to vote.

A letter to the Judge from wife Celeste Fortenberry even notes her husband will lose the ability to go hunting since felons can’t own guns.

The memo also makes the case that no fine should be levied on Fortenberry since the scheme to route illegal donations to his campaign did not benefit him financially.

The Judge also received 64 letters requesting a lenient sentence for Fortenberry, including one from Lt. Governor Mike Foley.

In a separate memo, the federal prosecutors on the case maintained Fortenberry deserves time in a federal prison claiming “the effect of defendant’s criminal conduct has been to fuel distrust in our federal elected officials” and undermining “the already fraying public trust.”