Chaka Fattah not (as) guilty: Thursday’s ruling explained

He’s still convicted of the biggest count he faced.

Congressman Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat, speaks to the center for American Progress in 2010.

Congressman Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat, speaks to the center for American Progress in 2010.


Earlier today, federal judge Harvey Bartle threw out four of 22 counts faced by Chaka Fattah, the longtime Philly congressman who’d been convicted by a federal jury in June, following a years-long probe.

The upshot? Fattah is in less trouble but still big trouble, as in probably-going-to-federal-prison-for-a-while trouble. Specifically, the judge tossed two counts of bank fraud, one of mail fraud and one of falsification of records. So is Fattah innocent of those? We’ll explain:

He’s still convicted of RICO, the really big one

The first count against Fattah is RICO, the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or as we commonly call it racketeering. It’s basically a sum of a lot of illicit activity, crimes committed in organized fashion. The charge was invented to take down mobsters.

For Fattah, his other counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and bribery led to RICO. The dropping of a couple of charges wasn’t nearly enough to sway the judge to drop RICO, too.

Why certain charges were dropped

The mail fraud: Fattah was convicted on seven counts of mail fraud for using his campaign funds to repay Chaka Fattah Jr.’s student loans. On one of those counts, the judge ruled the prosecutors prove one Fattah aide had mailed a specific check to another Fattah aide.  

The bank fraud: These counts dealt with Fattah’s purchase of a Poconos vacation home financed through Credit Union Mortgage Association. The judge ruled this mortgage company essentially isn’t the right type of bank to be included in this type of charge.

Falsification of records: This one dealt with the sale of Renee Chenault Fattah’s Porsche. As part of the charge the government had to prove the false bill of sale for the Porsche was made to impede the government’s investigation. The judge said there was not enough evidence to prove the bill of sale did that.

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