PHILADELPHIA — A longtime Pennsylvania congressman serving a 10-year prison term will ask a judge Friday to reduce his sentence after four bribery and money laundering counts were thrown out on appeal.
Federal prosecutors insist, however, that Chaka Fattah should still serve 10 years on more than a dozen corruption-related counts remaining.
The Philadelphia Democrat has served about two-and-a-half years in prison after a jury found he misused $600,000 in federal grants and non-profit funds on personal and campaign expenses.
Fattah, 62, spent two decades in Congress and served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee before racking up debt amid a failed 2007 bid for Philadelphia mayor. Prosecutors say he took an illegal $1 million loan from a friend, and then used the public and non-profit funds to repay it.
Four friends or former aides were convicted of related charges.
Fattah has taken classes and taught public speaking in prison, and hopes to start a neuroscience firm when he gets out, defence lawyers say in court papers filed this month. Fattah was known in Congress as an advocate for brain research and served on a panel that oversaw the National Science Foundation.
“Mr. Fattah hopes someday to create an organization, Fattah Neuroscience Global Advisors, that will be dedicated to supporting others who are focused on brain science and related research, through its specialized knowledge of neuroscience and its experience in implementing brain-related policy initiatives,” lawyers Sam Silver and Bruce Merenstein wrote. “(The firm) will allow Mr. Fattah to combine his passion and support for the sciences, with his dedication to improving the conditions of the global community.”
Federal prosecutors said that Fattah should not be released early simply because he has a clean prison record.
“For over twenty years, Fattah held himself out to his constituents as a champion of education and clean government,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer A. Williams wrote in a sentencing memo this week. “Fattah’s abuse of his status as a public official — no less than a United States Congressman — was so egregious and his attempts to shift the blame for his conduct to others so blatant, that concurrent 120-month sentences are wholly warranted.”
Fattah resigned from Congress after his June 2016 conviction. His son, Chaka Fattah Jr., was given a five-year term in an overlapping fraud case.
Maryclaire Dale, The Associated Press