The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in late December threw out the 2022 conviction of former Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry for lying to the FBI, ruling that he was tried in the wrong venue, CBS News reported.
In its December 26 opinion, the appeals court found that the former Nebraska Rep. should have been tried in his home state or Washington, D.C., where the alleged false statements were made, and not in California where the investigation was conducted.
US District Judge James Donato wrote that Fortenberry was tried in a state where “no charged crime was committed” but where the FBI agents in charge of the investigation were conducting the investigation, which is not permitted in the Constitution.
In reversing Fortenberry’s convictions, Donato wrote that if the former congressman is retried, it should be done “in a proper venue.”
A California jury found Fortenberry guilty in March 2022 of lying to the FBI about a $30,000 illegal contribution by a foreign national at a Los Angeles fundraiser for his 2016 congressional campaign.
The Nebraska Republican was accused of lying during two 2019 interviews with FBI agents investigating the illegal contributions and Fortenberry’s knowledge of them that were conducted at Fortenberry’s Nebraska home and in his lawyer’s Washington, DC office.
Fortenberry was not charged with violating federal election law.
In the appellate court opinion, Judge Donato noted that the district court found that the violation could be tried both where the false statements were made and “where it has an effect on a federal investigation.” However, the appellate court disagreed, asserting that the Constitution made it clear that a criminal defendant must be tried “in the place where the criminal conduct occurred.”
Fortenberry was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine.
In a statement after the appellate court ruling, Fortenberry, who resigned from the House after his conviction, said he was “gratified” by the decision.