LOS ANGELES, CA – Nine-term First District Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry has been found guilty by a federal jury in California on one count of falsifying and concealing material facts and two counts of making false statements .
The jury deliberated for about two hours on Thursday before finding Fortenberry guilty of the three charges stemming from an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a Nigerian-born billionaire of Lebanese descent, Gilbert Chagoury, at a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser.
Each count carries a potential five-year prison sentence and fines. Following the conviction, according to reports, Fortenberry stated that he would appeal the verdict and assess whether to continue his re-election campaign. He is on the May 10th Republican primary ballot.
Sitting members of Congress convicted of crimes are not precluded from holding office. Fortenberry, had already taken a political hit when prosecutors announced the charges with his indictment dividing Nebraska republicans who had supported him for years. Leaders on both sides of the aisle called for Fortenberry to step down with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggesting today that Fortenberry could still appeal the verdict as an ordinary citizen. As of December 31, 2021 Fortenberry had raised over $895,000 for his campaign.
Fortenberry is one of five candidates on the primary election ballot. The other four are: Nebraska State Senator Mike Flood, Curtis Huffman, John Glen Weaver, and Thireena Yuki Connely. To date, most of the media attention has focused on Fortenberry and Flood with the two candidates accusing each other of lying about their legislative track record. Flood has gained the early endorsements of Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, former Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, and former Congressman and coach Tom Osborne.
If Fortenberry were to resign his office, Governor Pete Ricketts would call for an election to fill the vacancy. The U.S. Constitution provides that the full electoral process be applied: nominations, primary election and general election – which could take from three to six months to complete. Fortenberry’s term expires next January.
The 1st District is located in eastern Nebraska surrounding the outskirts of Omaha and including the population centers of Lincoln, Norfolk and Columbus. While district lines have changed, Republicans have represented the 1st District continuously since 1967.