Fortenberry’s trial attorney could face discipline

Now the federal judge wants Fortenberry’s attorney to explain himself by the end of the week
One of former Congressman Fortenberry's trial attorneys could be facing discipline.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - One of former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s trial attorneys could be facing discipline.

In the background next to Fortenberry and his wife is John Littrell, one of his trial lawyers.

Littrell, according to his company’s website, specializes in white-collar defense representing clients from all over the world. He’s the Los Angeles attorney who has now been ordered by a judge to explain why he did what he did before the Fortenberry jury in March.

While in the Los Angeles courtroom John Littrell gave closing arguments in the trial over whether Fortenberry lied to the FBI over illegal campaign contributions.

Remember, Fortenberry did not testify which is his constitutional right and the judge told the jury that they were not to read anything into the decision.

But then defense attorney John Littrell told the jury that in a way, Fortenberry really did testify because they heard his voice through the audio recordings played during six days of trial and that his client wouldn’t have added anything if he did testify because his memory wasn’t any better today.

That’s when the government objected.

Now federal Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. wants Fortenberry’s attorney to explain himself by the end of the week.

The judge said John Littrell “made a calculated decision to cross the line” by talking about why Fortenberry didn’t testify saying it’s an “elementary principle of law” that you can’t talk about it to the jury in closing arguments, especially when it wasn’t evidence and the government wouldn’t have a chance to respond.

The judge went on to say that since John Littrell believed it to be “a fair comment” telling the judge that “reasonable minds can disagree” he’s concerned the attorney may use the argument again in another case and that’s why he questions whether Littrell should be sanctioned or referred to a discipline committee.

It’s not clear how this impacts the case moving forward since Fortenberry has several other attorneys and one of them filed an appeal.

Fortenberry believes he was a victim of a government setup.

For the conviction, he could have gotten 15 years in federal prison but the same judge sentenced him to probation instead.

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