The federal corruption trial of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah is continued the week of May 31–June 3. Fattah and four of his colleagues are being accused of misusing federal grants, campaign contributions and charitable donations to pay off his debts and advance his career.
On Tuesday, May 31, prosecutors focused on congressman’s former live-in au pair, Simone Muller. According the indictment, Herb Vederman, a D.C. lobbyist, bribed Fattah by giving him a $3,000 check to help pay for Muller’s tuition at Philadelphia University, and in return, Fattah would help Lederman with his goal of becoming a United States ambassador. John Pierantozzi, a special assistant to the university’s president, testified about Muller’s acceptance to the school, the efforts of head administrators who helped Muller get scholarships in order to handle nearly all of her tuition costs and the tuition funds paid by Vederman.
Witnesses ranging from Vederman’s girlfriend to the man who ran President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign testified on Wednesday, June 1, saying that on numerous occasions Fattah had extended his influence to benefit Vederman. Alexandra Zionts worked at Fattah’s West Philadelphia office for two months, and prosecutors allege that this was one of the many benefits of Fattah and Vederman’s relationship. Jim Messina, a former White House deputy chief of staff, testified that Fattah urged him to consider Vederman as a potential ambassador.
On Thursday, June 2, the prosecutors focused on the congressman’s financial transactions, including the alleged payment of his city wage taxes that was secured through a bribe. The alleged bribery to pay the wage tax was given by Vederman in order to buy Fattah’s support in the competition to obtain an ambassadorship in the Obama administration. Other alleged bribes include $3,000 in college tuition payments for Fattah’s au pair and $18,000 to cover closing costs on Fattah’s vacation home in the Poconos.
The prosecutors finished their case on Friday, June 3. The defense attorneys sought to have the charges and case the prosecutors had built against their client be dismissed; U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III declined. The defense opened with calling an array of witnesses including former U.S. Rep. Robert Borski, Jr., government staffers, former employees and advisors of Fattah and a hotel doorman. Everyone who testified offered kind words about Fattah.
The defense attorneys will continue to build their case for Fattah.
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