US & Canada

US Congressman Chaka Fattah sentenced to decade in prison

Fatah left the court with his lawyers after the sentencing Image copyright AP
Image caption Fatah left the court with his lawyers after the sentencing

Veteran US Congressman Chaka Fatah has been sentenced to 10 years in prison over charges including racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud.

The 60-year-old Democratic Congressman represented the state of Pennsylvania for 22 years, and was one of Congress' most senior black lawmakers.

The penalty was handed down by a federal judge in Philadelphia, the city that he represented until June 2016.

Fatah vowed to appeal the conviction. He will report to prison next month.

During sentencing Fatah told US District Judge Harvey Bartle that he had "helped tens of millions of people" during his 37-year political career.

Calling his crimes "astonishing", given that Fatah and his TV anchor wife already had a $500,000 annual income, the judge handed down the second-longest prison sentence ever given to a US congressman for corruption.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The former congressman shared the stage with the Obamas during a 2013 event in Philadelphia

He said he was sorry that the jury "found him on the wrong side of these questions" and expressed gratitude for the work he was able to do during his time in Congress.

Fatah was convicted in June 2016 of taking bribes that he used to enrich himself and preserve his political career.

"He chose to violate the trust of his constituents and the taxpayers to line his pockets and advance his personal and professional goals at their expense," Special Assistant US Attorney Eric Gibson accused.

The jury found that he had taken an illegal $1,000,000 (£788,000) loan in order to launch a failed 2007 bid to become the mayor of Philadelphia.

When his candidacy failed, he used federal funding including Nasa grant money to pay off his campaign debts.

He also used charity funds to pay down his son's college loans, and took a bribe from a friend and former campaign aide in order to lobby President Barack Obama to make him an ambassador.

Prosecutors alleged that he even hand-delivered a letter to President Obama in order to support an ambassadorial appointment for his former campaign aide, Herbert Vederman.

He was also found guilty of disguising a lobbyist's bribe as payment for a car that he never sold.

Four of his aides have been found guilty as well, and will be sentenced later this week.

Fatah's son, Chaka Fatah Jr, is serving a five-year sentence on bank and tax fraud charges.

His prison term begins on 25 January 2017.

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