Ex-US Rep. Fattah loses bid to cut 10-year prison term

Longtime Pennsylvania congressman loses bid to cut 10-year prison term after four bribery and money laundering counts were tossed on appeal

PHILADELPHIA -- A longtime Pennsylvania congressman lost his bid to have his 10-year prison term reduced after four bribery and money laundering counts were thrown out on appeal.

Philadelphia Democrat Chaka Fattah Sr. is two-and-a-half years into a prison term handed down for misusing more than $600,000 in federal grants and charitable funds.

Fattah, 62, spent more than two decades in Congress before a costly, failed bid for Philadelphia mayor in 2007 set the financial crimes in motion. In court Friday, dressed in a green prison jumpsuit, Fattah said he's "deeply sorry" for the mistakes he made.

"I understand that I've let people down, and that I've hurt people," he said.

They include four people — an aide, two political consultants and a friend — who went down with him in the rackeetering case, Senior U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III noted. And his son Chaka Fattah Jr. was meanwhile given a five-year prison term in an overlapping case.

Fattah's lawyers asked the judge to cut the sentence given the reduced guideline range that emerged after an appeals court overturned two money laundering and bribery counts but restored two others. Prosecutors insisted the 10-year minimum term was still fitting given that more than a dozen counts that remained.

At trial, they argued Fattah took an illegal $1 million loan from a friend to put toward his personal and political debts, and then used the public and nonprofit funds to repay it.

Fattah has taken classes and taught public speaking during his time in prison, and hopes to start a neuroscience firm when he gets out, his lawyers said in court papers filed this month. Fattah was known in Congress as an advocate for brain research and served on a panel that oversaw the National Science Foundation.

"Mr. Fattah hopes someday to create an organization, Fattah Neuroscience Global Advisors, that will be dedicated to supporting others who are focused on brain science and related research, through its specialized knowledge of neuroscience and its experience in implementing brain-related policy initiatives," lawyers Sam Silver and Bruce Merenstein wrote. "(The firm) will allow Mr. Fattah to combine his passion and support for the sciences, with his dedication to improving the conditions of the global community."

Fattah resigned from Congress after his June 2016 conviction. Fatttah smiled throughout much of the court hearing, sometimes looking back toward the dozen or so supporters who were on hand. His wife, former Philadelphia news anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah, did not attend the hearing.