LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KMTV & AP) — Federal Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. sentenced former Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry to two years probation, 320 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine for two counts of lying to federal investigators and a third count of concealing facts from investigators.
In March, the former congressman was found guilty in federal court in a case that centered around whether or not he knowingly received "conduit" campaign donations from a foreign national, which is illegal.
Fortenberry, 61, sat quietly as a federal judge read the sentence in a Los Angeles courtroom. The former congressman resigned in March shortly after a California jury found him guilty in the corruption case. He has maintained his innocence and said he plans to appeal.
Fortenberry chose not to address the court. Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr. said Fortenberry “turned a blind eye and a deaf ear” to indications that the source of his donations was illicit.
“Mr. Fortenberry chose the wrong path,” Blumenfeld said. “He decided to respond with dishonesty rather than honesty, and lying, especially in this context, is certainly a serious matter.”
Blumenfeld denied prosecutors' recommended sentencing enhancements, which centered around their argument that Fortenberry knowingly obstructed justice. He could have received up to six years in prison.
The defense asked the judge to reduce the fine, arguing financial hardship. The judge did not reduce the fine.
In his statements, Blumenfeld noted the number of people who testified and submitted letters favorably about Fortenberry's personal character, his years of public service and the fact that he has no prior record. He also noted that the court must take those factors into account along with a need to deter others from committing the same crime.
Fortenberry later said he planned to appeal, arguing that prosecutors never should have brought the case and accusing them of taking advantage of his trust.
“This has been very traumatic and we've got a way to go,” he said outside the courthouse after the sentencing. “But I am grateful that ... the judge recognized that the pattern of what I wanted to do with my life was simply to serve in public office and to try to help people.”
Fortenberry said he had been anxious about the hearing's outcome. Gesturing to his surroundings in downtown Los Angeles, he said, “We're in a very strange place. It's not Nebraska.”
Prosecutors were seeking six months in prison for Fortenberry, while his attorneys had requested probation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mack Jenkins said prosecutors disagreed with the decision not to impose prison time, but noted the judge’s comments endorsing the jury’s decision.
He resigned from Congress two days after the conviction: Fortenberry resigns two days after jury finds him guilty of lying to federal investigators
Former Congressman Jeff Fortenberry is in federal court this morning in Los Angeles for his sentencing.— KMTV 3 News Now (@3NewsNowOmaha) June 28, 2022