Shortly after the foreman of the jury read “guilty” for 22 of the 23 federal counts leveled against Chaka “Chip” Fattah Jr., including misusing business loans and stealing taxpayer money, Fattah confidently strode out of the courtroom on the 16th floor of Philadelphia’s federal courthouse.
He spoke breathlessly with reporters Thursday afternoon, at times drifting far away from questions.
The verdict brings to a close Fattah Jr.’s three-week court saga with federal prosecutors. He was exonerated of just one count tied to a 2009 tax return. But he now faces the consequences of nearly two dozen other offenses.
“I look forward to a vigorous appeal after sentencing,” said Fattah, 32. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2.
Asked if there were anything he would have done differently during the trial, he replied without a blink.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Despite confronting the possibility of four years in federal prison, Fattah remains assured that he’ll find a way out.
Looking back, Fattah, who is not a lawyer, said he doesn’t think representing himself influenced the outcome.
“I didn’t want the representation that I was faced with, primarily because of workload issues, and stuff like that, having nothing to do with the particular quality of lawyers that I was assigned,” he said of his decision not to put his case in the hands of a public defender.
Lavish lifestyle, testimony of business partner
Key to the prosecution’s case was the help of Matthew Amato, Fattah’s former roommate and business partner. Amato pleaded guilty to lavishly spending a bank loan intended for “working capital” for a small business. Amato later wore a wire for the FBI and caught Fattah discussing some of his schemes, portions of which were replayed during closing arguments.
Prosecutors repeatedly played up Fattah’s swanky lifestyle to jurors, mentioning his Hermes ties, Italian suits and $15,000 debt at the Capital Grille, not to mention an apartment filled with towering Fiesta pizza boxes — a less elegant detail, to be sure, but still contributing to the image of Fattah as a swindling “deadbeat,” in the words of prosecutors.
“So I think that this was kind of like the wild, wild West, in many respects, in which everything was allowed, that would be to the detriment of the defendant, in this case, my son,” said 11-term U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, who faces a trial on federal corruption charges in May.
It’s noteworthy, Fattah Sr. said, that prosecutors claim the investigations are unrelated.
“The same identical group of people who’ve been pursuing me, just by accident, right? Having nothing to do with me. Are in this,” he said.
The congressman says he’s not going to let the government besmirch the Fattah name.
“This is a tough day in which there’s a significant loss. But there will be another day,” Fattah Sr. said. “And another place and a hearing in which I think more reason, and a little less passion, will benefit my son.”
Swarmed by TV cameras, Fattah bee-lined from the Market Street entrance of the courthouse into the backseat of a black Infiniti with a New York state license plate.
Before the crossover vehicle sped away, he told reporters to save all questions for his next press conference.