Fortenberry sentencing: Prosecution recommends former Nebraska Congressman get prison time

They’re also asking for a fine of $30,000. But the defense and supporters have been petitioning for probation only.
Former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry believes he's been punished enough for lying to the FBI.
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 7:16 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry believes he’s been punished enough for lying to the FBI.

The government disagrees, saying he still needs to go to jail.

With Fortenberry scheduled for sentencing later this month, his team told the judge Wednesday what they believe is a reasonable punishment: no jail time.

But the government recommended he be locked up for six months, saying prison is appropriate when politicians repeatedly choose to lie to save themselves. They also asked for a $30,000 fine — the same amount that got Fortenberry into trouble with the fundraiser in the first place.

U.S. Probation also weighed in with its sentencing formula, recommending three months in federal prison.

Now it’s up to the judge to pick one — or rule something entirely different.

In March, a Los Angeles jury found the Nebraska congressman guilty of lying to the FBI about $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions.

Prosecutors point to the former Congressman’s statement to reporters in March, saying he’s shown no remorse.

“We were always concerned about the fairness of the process here,” he said then.

The U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles said Fortenberry chose hubris over honesty and that if he doesn’t get jail time, who’s to stop other public officials from choosing the same page of lies and obstruction?

But the former Congressman’s attorneys flooded the judge with letter after letter — 64 of them — asking for grace. Letters from his family, longtime friends — even Lt. Gov. Mike Foley, who wrote: “A prison sentence would serve no useful purpose as Jeff has already suffered the loss of his position in Congress not to mention the damage to his reputation...”

Fortenberry’s attorneys included a pie chart, where they show 1 in 10 defendants in cases like this one gets jail time. He’s over 60 years old with no criminal record — 80% of such people received probation. But the government says the defense left out “abuse of trust” and “obstruction” in the equation, and if you factor those in, the average sentence for this type of defendant is 21 months in federal prison.

A judge will make this decision in two weeks.

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