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Ex-Congressman Wins Reversal of Bribery Convictions, But...

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 14, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's news when a congressman's bribery convictions are overturned, but that's because sometimes the news and politics are backwards.

In United States of America v. Fattah, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals threw out four bribery convictions against Chaka Fattah. The real news, however, is that the appeals court affirmed 13 other corruption convictions -- each carrying a 10-year sentence.

If you do the math, it was not exactly a win for the decades-long congressman. In any case, his political career is definitely over.

Thirteen Plus Two

Because of the reversals, Fattah will be resentenced. Originally, his 17 sentences were to run concurrently.

And although the Third Circuit overturned the bribery convictions, it also reinstated two convictions that the trial judge had dismissed in 2016. Those counts were tied to forgery that involved his wife -- a former NBC television anchor.

According to reports, Renee Chenault-Fattah sold a 2012 Porsche convertible in an attempt to cover up an $18,000 bribe. It was part of a criminal relationship between the congressman and a former deputy mayor in Philadelphia.

Herbert Vederman, who was also convicted in the scheme, gave the congressman's children cash, his au pair college tuition, and the $18,000 to help buy a vacation home. In exchange, Fattah gave Vederman's girlfriend a district office job.

Appropriations Committee

Fattah, 61, was a congressman from 1995 until he resigned shortly after his convictions in 2016. He had several high-level positions, including a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.

He is serving his time in a federal detention center, and is scheduled to be released in 2025. He will be 67 then, and unlikely to win elective office again.

The Third Circuit reversed his bribery convictions based on an erroneous jury instruction on the definition of "political graft." The U.S. Supreme redefined it days after Fattah's conviction.

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