Nebraska Congressman Fortenberry’s trial staying in California

Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 12:20 PM CST
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(WOWT) - Nebraska Congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s trial will be held in March in a Los Angeles courtroom, according to a ruling Monday from U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Blumenfeld Jr.

Fortenberry’s legal team had argued the trial should be moved to Nebraska since jury trials have been delayed in California because of COVID restrictions. Those restrictions are set to end soon.

Fortenberry is accused of lying to the FBI when asked about campaign donations he received from a foreign national. He was indicted in October.

Fortenberry’s attorneys had asked the court to move the trial to Omaha or Lincoln on 10 factors ranging from location of witnesses and the defendant to expense and the impact on Fortenberry’s business as a congressman.

The judge wrote: “While the location of defendant weighs in favor of transfer, many other factors weigh against transfer…”

The federal judge went on to explain the factors in his 5-page ruling. He said the number of witnesses to travel would be the same whether the trial was held in Los Angeles or Nebraska.

Judge Blumenfeld Jr. also ruled that “Los Angeles is at least accessible as Omaha or Lincoln and has the advantage of being served by five airports with flights from over 50 airlines.”

Fortenberry’s team told the California judge that Nebraska courts don’t have as many cases before its judges, so there’s more flexibility in Nebraska.

But Judge Blumenfeld Jr rejected the argument: “It is far from clear that Defendant could obtain a trial date in Nebraska sooner than the beginning of March.”

He pointed out that a new judge would have to become familiar with the case and the many issues raised.

In the end, he ruled that “the interests of justice do not weigh in favor of transferring this case.”

Fortenberry’s campaign released a statement Monday saying, “This case was a set-up from the beginning and never should have been brought. It is vital to get this injustice corrected at the earliest possible opportunity and when California suspended jury trials the motion to change venue became necessary to do that. With California courts now re-opening, the judge’s ruling is consistent with our top priority to have a jury hear this case and clear Jeff Fortenberry’s name as soon as possible.”

The jury trial will begin March 15 and is expected to last 2-3 days.

Read the court filing

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