Philadelphia’s Democratic patriarch Chaka Fattah just received one of the longest sentences in the long-spanning history of those convicted of crimes while being serving in Congress.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle sentenced Fattah to 10 years earlier today in Philadelphia’s federal court on Arch Street. This came after a lengthy trial when Fattah was accused of bribery and federal corruption charges. The charges stemmed from an illegal $1 million loan he took out in 2007 for his mayoral run.
“In committing his crimes and directing the criminal activity of others, Fattah sought to strengthen himself politically, enrich himself and his co-conspirators, steal from nonprofits and the federal taxpayers, and defraud his campaigns, their creditors and a credit union,” prosecutors wrote in urging the judge to impose a harsh penalty. They said it was “difficult to overstate the seriousness of Fattah’s crimes given the unique position of trust that elected officials hold in our democratic system.”
According to defense attorneys, the government’s case was based on the word of those who cut plea deals to avoid stiffer penalties.
Fattah began his political career in 1995 & lost the spring Democratic primary just days before his trial began. Fattah resigned after his conviction in June. Former state Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) was recently elected by constituents in Fattah’s district to represent them in the House.
What Did Chaka Fattah Do?
According to the Department of Justice, Fattah borrowed $1 million from a wealthy supporter during his failed 2007 mayoral campaign. Fattah then used an education nonprofit founded by him to repay a mass of the money, with charitable donations and grant funds.
The former congressman allegedly covered up the dealings through bogus contracts, tax returns and campaign finance documents. Additionally, Fattah used campaign money to repay $23,000 of his son’s student loan debt between 2007 and 2011. Fattah lobbied President Barack Obama for an ambassadorship or U.S. Trade Commission appointment for Philadelphia’s former deputy mayor Herbert Vederman.
Vederman was also found guilty for bribing Fattah with gifts – including cash payments of $18,000 to help with the purchase of a vacation home in the Poconos. Vederman’s lawyers assert that the gifts are nothing more than signs of a long friendship. He is scheduled for sentencing later this week.
Prosecutors disagree with Vederman’s lawyers – asserting: “Vederman shows that he still does not understand a point that the jury appears to have had no problem grasping. Whether Vederman and Fattah were friends or not, Vederman committed a crime when he gave Fattah things of value in exchange for official acts. Friendship does not mitigate bribery.”
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