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A former Democratic congressman who was indicted and sentenced to a decade in prison on charges of bribery and corruption linked to his failed Philadelphia mayoral bid has been mysteriously released from federal prison.
Chaka Fattah, was released by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons without explanation last week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, well ahead of serving his 10-year sentence for a wide range of charges that included money laundering, racketeering, and bank fraud.
According to reports, the former Pennsylvania Democrat congressman had more than five years left on his sentence after reporting to prison in 2016. He was indicted along with several associates. In one instance, Philadelphia Magazine reported, he tried to cover up $18,000 by forging documents to make it appear as though he had sold a Porsche that belonged to his wife, Renee Chenault Fattah, who was an anchor at a local news desk at the time.
Adding more mystery to Fattah’s release, just last year a federal judge resentenced him to a 10-year prison term.
During his initial sentencing in December 2016, Fattah was ordered to pay more than $614,000, including $100,000 to NASA. After a series of appeals, the government won and the disgraced congressman was sentenced again July 12th, 2019.
“Let today serve as a warning to all public officials who allow greed or a thirst for influence to overpower any desire to serve the community honestly,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said at the time.
“If you are a corrupt official, we will investigate and convict you, and we will remain steadfast behind our prosecution until the last appeal is wrapped up and the final proceeding complete,” she added. “Today’s sentencing illustrates the strength of our original case and the need to put Chaka Fattah behind bars for a very long time.”
As to potential reasons for his release, the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that coronavirus concerns may have driven the BOP’s decision. According to local reports, Fattah remains under “community confinement,” either at home or a so-called “halfway house.”
But no one is talking. The BOP did not issue a statement as to why Fattah was let out just a year after being resentenced. There was no public statement given by federal prosecutors, and, according to Philadelphia Magazine, Sam Silver, also has not issued a statement.
Prior to resigning his seat after losing a primary in 2016 following his indictment, Fattah had served for more than 20 years in Congress. While he was still in prison, Fattah, 63, continued to receive taxpayer-funded federal pension payments.
Fattah’s was the second-longest prison sentence given to a former member of Congress,” the Washington Post reported. He was accused of illegally accepting a $1 million loan when he ran for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.
In the modern era, former Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson, also a Democrat, was sentenced to 13 years in 2009 for literally accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. Federal investigators discovered $90,000 in cash stored in a freezer in his home.
At the time, federal prosecutors said that he had engaged in “the most extensive and pervasive pattern of corruption in the history of Congress.”
Former GOP lawmaker Duke Cunningham of California was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2005 for corruption charges linked to what became known as the Cunningham Scandal. The Post reported that he was linked to “little-known defense contractors” that “paid bribes (both in the form of cash and even prostitutes) to members of Congress and administration officials to secure federal contracts worth tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting more than $2 million in bribes.
In 2002, former Democratic Rep. James Trafficant of Ohio was also sentenced to eight years in prison after a court found him guilty of taking bribes and kickbacks from staffers for political favors. He defended himself in court, but was convicted on 10 counts of bribery and racketeering. He was released from prison in 2009 after serving seven years behind bars; he died in a tractor accident on his farm in 2014.
Trafficant refused to resign his seat in Congress, however, and became only the second lawmaker since the Civil War to be expelled by members.
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