Fortenberry’s attorney argues his statements to agents should be tossed

Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry announces re-election bid.

With U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry on the other side of the country in Washington, D.C., attorneys argued in a California courtroom for two hours Tuesday over whether a judge should bar prosecutors from using statements he made to federal agents at his trial on allegations he lied to them.

The hearing came a day after the longtime politician announced he would seek a 10th term representing Nebraska’s 1st District in Congress this year. 

In October, a grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Fortenberry on two counts of making false statements to federal agents and one count of seeking to conceal the source of $30,000 in “conduit” political contributions from a 2016 California fundraiser.

The funds originated with Gilbert Chagoury, a Paris-based Nigerian of Lebanese descent, who purportedly directed the donations to Fortenberry because of a shared interest in protecting Christians from persecution in the Middle East. It is illegal for foreigners to donate to U.S. political campaigns.

Fortenberry has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. rejected five defense motions seeking to dismiss the charges and to disqualify one of the prosecuting attorneys.

In court Tuesday, before the same judge, one of Fortenberry’s attorneys, Ryan Fraser, argued that the statements Fortenberry made should be suppressed because he only talked to investigators after a prosecutor told his then-attorney he wasn’t considered a suspect, but rather was a subject, trending toward being considered a witness.


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