Fattah ally sentenced to probation; Evans tapped for special election

Former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (left) and Pennsylvania State Rep. Dwight Evans (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (left) and Pennsylvania State Rep. Dwight Evans (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Veteran political operative Gregory Naylor, a member of former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah’s inner circle, was sentenced Tuesday to four years probation on charges that he helped steal public funds to support Fattah’s failed 2007 campaign for Philadelphia mayor. He was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

Naylor, 68, had faced up to 37 months in prison after pleading guilty to concealment of a felony, knowingly falsifying records, and making false statements to the FBI.

The sentence drew tears and yelps of joy from a jam-packed gallery of supporters, more than 20 of whom stood during the hourlong proceeding.

Naylor, dressed in a navy suit and white dress shirt, spoke briefly before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III revealed his decision.

“There’s only one person to blame…and he’s standing right here,” said Naylor. “I wanted to be famous, but I never wanted to be infamous.”

Robert Levant, Naylor’s lawyer, said after Tuesday’s hearing that the sentence “speaks volumes about the way Greg Naylor has lived his life for 68 years.”

“None of us are defined by one mistake, but by the way we transition when that mistake is made,” he added.

While commending Naylor for his “pivotal” and “crucial” testimony, prosecutors asked Bartle for jail time because Naylor helped a “corrupt United States Congressman” in the name of furthering his own interests.

They argued that prison would be the only way to deter others considering ripping off the public.

“This is simply not a non-incarceration case,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Gray.

Naylor pleaded guilty in August 2014. As part of his deal with the government, Naylor testified against Fattah, a longtime friend. It was an important piece of the prosecution’s case, which ultimately ended with Fattah being convicted on more than 20 counts of corruption, including racketeering, bribery and money laundering.

On the stand, Naylor told jurors that Fattah knew the specifics of a scheme to repay part of an illegal $1 million loan made to his 2007 mayoral campaign.

A $500,000 grant moved from a nonprofit to a for-profit company before ultimately being repaid to Sallie Mae CEO Alfred Lord, who made the original $1 million loan.

Another $100,000 from a personal bank account was also wired to Lord.

Naylor helped conceal the payments by creating fake invoices.

He also testified that Fattah instructed him to make thousands of dollars in college tuition and student loan payments for Fattah’s son, Chaka Fattah Jr. Naylor testified that those payments were then illegally reimbursed using Fattah’s campaign funds.

To make the payments appear legitimate, Naylor said he created fake tax documents to make it look like the younger Fattah was doing work for his consulting firm, though no work was ever done.

Naylor’s hearing comes two weeks before another former member of Fattah’s political team finds out his fate.

Also part of this case, Thomas Lindenfeld, a high-profile political consultant, pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in November 2014. He also testified during Fattah’s month-long trial as part of his deal with the government.

At trial, Lindenfeld calmly told jurors that Fattah arranged a pair of meetings with Lord. Afterwards, he said Lord wired $1 million to Lindenfeld’s political consulting firm to help Fattah’s mayoral campaign.

Lindenfeld said the illegal loan was expressly for the purposes of trying to bolster Fattah’s once promising run.

Lindenfeld, 61, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

Fattah, who resigned his seat after losing the Democratic primary in April, is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 4. That date is expected to change as the former congressman’s lawyers wait for Bartle to rule on motions for acquittal and a new trial.

The lengthy document, filed last week, argues that federal prosecutors didn’t present sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

It cites a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who was convicted of performing “official acts” after taking thousands in bribes from a businessman developing a dietary supplement.

In a ruling overturning that decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that “setting up a meeting, calling another public official, or hosting an event does not, standing alone, qualify as an ‘official act.'”

“The Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision undercuts every one of the arguments the government made here that Congressman Fattah committed or agreed to commit an “official act,” wrote Fattah attorney Bruce Merenstein. “Indeed, the government’s arguments in this case as to what constituted an “official act” tracked precisely the arguments rejected by the Supreme Court in McDonnell.”

Fattah was convicted of taking bribes from Herbert Vederman, a wealthy friend who wanted to become a U.S. Ambassador with the Obama Administration.

Prosecutors said Fattah sent letters extolling Vederman’s resume to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and members of the Obama administration. He allegedly hand-delivered a letter to Obama.

In exchange, the government argued that Vederman “showered” Fattah with gifts and money, including $18,000 to help pay for a home in the Poconos.

Vederman and three other co-defendants were convicted alongside Fattah. Prosecutors said the group participated in a “white-collar crime spree” orchestrated by Fattah.

All of this unfolds as Pennsylvania state Rep. Dwight Evans prepares for two elections on Nov. 8.

Evans is the Democratic nominee for the special election to fill out the rest of Fattah’s term, who resigned from office two days after being convicted.

In April, Evans ended Fattah’s 22-year congressional career after winning the Democratic primary.

Republican James Jones will also be listed two times, running in both the special and general elections.

The double matchup comes after Philadelphia and Montgomery County ward leaders picked Evans and James to be the party nominees in the special election.

Given the district’s lopsided voter registration rolls, Evans is all but guaranteed victory in both elections. He would get sworn in once the results are certified, giving him a slight edge in seniority over members of Congress who would take office in January.

The 2nd Congressional District covers parts of North, Northwest and West Philadelphia, as well as most of Lower Merion Township.

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