Chaka Fattah is supposed to report for federal prison January 25 to begin serving a 10-year sentence, but he’s pulling every move to try and stay out.
Fattah’s attorneys filed a motion yesterday asking for his release pending his appeal of the conviction because they claim at least two aspects of the case are likely to lead to a retrial. Those parts of the case involve the controversial dismissal of a juror and the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn bribery charges against convicted Virginia politician Bob McDonnell days after Fattah was found guilty of bribery in June.
Earlier this month, federal Judge Harvey Bartle III denied a Fattah motion to stay out of prison pending appeal, but that motion only involved the McDonnell argument and nothing about the juror.
On the first day of deliberations, Juror 12 was dismissed after the court interrogated him and five other jurors. The dismissed juror was found to have said “I’m going to hang this jury” to a court clerk, who then reported him to the court.
“The court’s willingness to dismiss Juror 12 on the basis of, in effect, six words the juror purportedly said to the court’s deputy,” the lawyers write, “was an abuse of discretion not supported by the case law involving removal of a juror.”
If the court is found to have acted improperly in dismissing the juror, Fattah’s lawyers argue his conviction would be reversed and there would be a retrial.
The McDonnell piece is slightly more complicated. Six days after Fattah’s conviction, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction of McDonnell, a former Virginia governor. In its ruling, the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of an “official act,” which used to be basically anything an elected official did, like typical phone calls and meetings. It meant McDonnell would not be guilty for accepting gifts for those types of actions.
For Fattah this matters because he was found to have called the president and a senator to request an ambassadorship for Herb Vederman. But no evidence was presented, Fattah’s lawyers claim, that his requests were taken seriously. They say his phone calls on behalf of Vederman would now not be considered an “official act,” despite having received payments from Vederman, for among other things, a vacation home in the Poconos.
Vederman, who was also convicted for bribery, has been allowed by Bartle III to stay out of prison while he appeals his conviction.