Former U.S. Congressman Jeffrey Fortenberry and Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams LLP defense team.
Former U.S. Congressman Jeffrey Fortenberry, center, his wife Celeste, and BKLW partner John L. Littrell, right, associate Ryan V. Fraser, left, and paralegal Garrison Giali, far left, arrive at a federal courthouse in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022. Mr. Fortenberry's conviction for making false statements related to allegedly illegal campaign contributions was reversed by a Ninth Circuit Panel. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


A Ninth Circuit panel reversed the federal conviction against former United States Congressman Jeffrey Fortenberry holding that he was improperly charged and tried in the wrong venue, and in violation of the Constitution’s venue and vicinage clauses. Mr. Fortenberry was convicted in Los Angeles for making false statements to federal agents as part of their greater investigation into illegal campaign contributions. Consistent with the government’s decision to charge him only with false-statement crimes, Mr. Fortenberry was not aware the contributions were illegal when they occurred.

In a unanimous decision, the appeals court ruled that prosecutors erred in bringing charges against Mr. Fortenberry in California because the alleged false statements were made at his home in Nebraska and at a law office in Washington, D.C.

“[The] trial took place in a state where no charged crime was committed, and before a jury drawn from the vicinage of the federal agencies that investigated the defendant,” United States District Judge James Donato wrote in the opinion.

Bienert Katzman Littrell Williams LLP Partner John Littrell and Associate Ryan Fraser previously moved to dismiss the case at its outset based on improper venue in California, noting that “the government’s attempt to drag Congressman Fortenberry across the country to face a jury of Californians for these alleged offenses represents a gross abuse of power by the Department of Justice.” 

Mr. Fortenberry and his family lauded the court’s decision.

“We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision. Celeste and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship.”

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