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Appeals court overturns ex-Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s conviction for lying about donations

Then-Rep. Jeff Fortenberry speaks on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Andrew Harnik/AP

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out former US Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s conviction for lying to federal authorities about illegal campaign contributions, saying the case against the Nebraska Republican was charged in the wrong jurisdiction.

Fortenberry’s 2022 convictions on three felony charges were based off allegations that he lied in two separate meetings with the FBI by saying he wasn’t aware of any illegal contributions to his 2016 reelection campaign made by a foreign national.

The appeals court unanimously concluded that prosecutors erroneously charged Fortenberry in Los Angeles, where the campaign finance investigation was based, instead of Nebraska or Washington, DC – where Fortenberry met with and allegedly lied to the agents.

“Fortenberry’s 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,” Judge James Donato wrote in an opinion, adding that “this outlandish outcome cannot be squared with the Constitution.”

“Fortenberry’s convictions are reversed so that he may be retried, if at all, in a proper venue,” he wrote.

It is not yet clear whether the Justice Department will retry Fortenberry. If they decide to do so, federal prosecutors will need to bring charges in either Nebraska or Washington, DC, effectively starting the case over.

The office of the US attorney for the Central District of California did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are gratified by the Ninth Circuit’s decision,” Fortenberry said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. “Celeste and I would like to thank everyone who has stood by us and supported us with their kindness and friendship.”

Fortenberry resigned from office last year after he was convicted, saying at the time that he could “no longer effectively serve.” The former congressman was never charged with violating federal election laws.

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