Judge to Rule on Nebraska Rep. Fortenberry's Trial Location

By GRANT SCHULTE, Related Press

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal decide is anticipated to rule Friday on whether or not U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry will stand trial within the California district the place he faces felony expenses or his dwelling state of Nebraska.

U.S. District Court docket Decide Stanley Blumenfeld mentioned he would situation his choice Friday afternoon.

Fortenberry, a nine-term Republican, has pleaded not responsible to expenses alleging he lied to federal authorities who have been investigating an unlawful 2016 marketing campaign contribution from a overseas nationwide at a Los Angeles fundraiser.

His attorneys have filed motions asking Blumenfeld to exclude proof from the trial and switch the case from California to Nebraska, citing Nebraska’s lighter caseload, a California jury pool that will seemingly skew Democratic and California pandemic restrictions which have quickly halted jury trials till Feb. 22.

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Prosecutors oppose the motions, arguing that Fortenberry is “venue buying” by in search of a trial in his dwelling state. Fortenberry had been scheduled to face trial Feb. 15, however it is going to be postponed due to California’s suspension of jury trials.

On Friday, Blumenfeld expressed excessive skepticism when one among Fortenberry’s attorneys, John Littrell, advised that he ought to both rule favorably on motions that will undermine the prosecution’s case or agree to maneuver the trial to Nebraska.

“If the courtroom’s going to rule in our favor and dismiss the case, then it ought to go forward and do this,” Littrell mentioned. “If it is not going to do this, then I feel it may well cross that on to a brand new decide.”

Blumenfeld mentioned he was “slightly stunned” to listen to Littrell make that argument and questioned whether or not the legal professional was being critical.

“It appears so blatantly self-serving and unprincipled that it’s a bit shocking,” Blumenfeld mentioned.

Littrell disputed that characterization, saying his argument was based mostly on “the precept of responsibility of loyalty to my shopper” and his obligation to vigorously defend him. Littrell has argued that authorities focused Fortenberry due to his conservative politics and deceived him, a declare prosecutors deny.

Blumenfeld additionally chastised each Fortenberry’s attorneys and prosecutors for creating “a whole lot of noise” across the politically charged case, together with allegations of political bias and the motives for charging Fortenberry. Blumenfeld mentioned he wasn’t “going to be influenced by noise.”

“I’ve a job to do, and I attempt to do this job in a approach that is legally based mostly and principled,” he mentioned, advising the attorneys “to not merely advocate for an excessive place which you can most likely guess goes to have a low likelihood of success.”

Fortenberry has mentioned by means of his attorneys that he desires to face trial as shortly as potential. He faces a critical GOP major problem from Nebraska state Sen. Mike Flood, a former speaker of the Nebraska Legislature who has been endorsed by Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman.

The first is Could 10. The first winners will face state Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democrat, within the closely Republican 1st Congressional District.

Fortenberry’s attorneys have additionally mentioned they need a reminiscence knowledgeable to testify in regards to the congressman’s way of thinking when he advised federal authorities that he did not recall being warned in regards to the unlawful donation.

Comply with Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

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