Former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah starts his 10-year prison sentence on Wednesday after being convicted on a slew of public corruption charges over the summer.
You wouldn’t know it just by speaking to him. In an interview during his final day of freedom, the 60-year-old was how he always is during interviews about his case or anything else: upbeat.
“There won’t be a day in my life in which I’m not upbeat,” said Fattah. “I’m not talking about any unusual, or unhealthy sort of enjoyment out of my predicament. That’s not my point. My point is that I’m more capable of dealing with these challenges than most people in our country.”
Fattah pointed to a wide network of community support, his loving family, and his lawyers, who will file an appeal on Fattah’s behalf, possibly in the coming weeks.
Asked about the appeal, Fattah said he’s “confident” it will be successful.
“The final chapter hasn’t been written yet,” he said.
“Under our system, not just for me, but for any American, no one is finally convicted until their appeal is heard. I know that’s hard to extend that even to a politician like me, but it’s a benefit to all American citizens.”
Even as Fattah’s legal fight continues, he continued to tout his record in Congress, which extends back to 1995, when he was first elected to represent the 2nd Congressional District.
It’s what he thinks people will remember most in the end.
“I’m not maintaining any innocence relative to the 11.5 million young people who got the American Opportunity Tax Credit last year. I take full credit for that. I sponsored the bill. They got $20 billion. I still contend that, somewhere in the double digits, millions of young people in the GEAR UP program. Everyone in the country agrees it’s my program,” said Fattah.
And the ex-congressman is already thinking about what he’ll do when he’s released from prison. He said he would enter the private sector and work on neuroscience-related issues, something he championed for years while he was an elected official.
Fattah is reportedly heading Wednesday to FCI-McKean in western Pennsylvania, less than 25 miles from the New York border.
Citing his pending appeal, Fattah declined to answer questions about the details of his case.
In June, a jury found that Fattah misspent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and charitable donations in the name of personal and political gain.
In the scheme at the heart of the case, Fattah stole public funds to help repay part of an illegal $1 million loan he took while running for Philadelphia mayor in 2007.
Prosecutors said the money was funneled through a nonprofit Fattah founded and a for-profit company started by a Fattah co-defendant with the help of fake documents and doctored bookkeeping.
Jurors also said Fattah accepted nearly $30,000 in bribes from a friend who wanted to become a U.S. ambassador; used campaign cash to help his son pay off some of his college loan debt; and encouraged a political consultant to set up a sham nonprofit to receive federal grants to help settle a debt.
Four co-defendants were convicted alongside Fattah. All but one are expected to file an appeal.