It could take years for Chaka Fattah case to run its legal course

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 The federal case against U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia could take years to resolve. (AP file photo)

The federal case against U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia could take years to resolve. (AP file photo)

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia has more than a criminal trial to worry about.  The House Ethics Committee is also investigating.

Fattah, a prominent Democrat, is accused of using federal grants and charitable donations to repay an illegal campaign loan.

Don’t expect the House Ethics Committee review to be completed anytime soon, said Washington defense attorney Stanley Brand.

“Generally speaking, the prevailing rule is that the committee will stay its hand until resolution of the criminal case,” Brand said. “That has been the  dominant precedent over the last century.”

Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the slowdown is at the discretion of Fattah’s attorneys.

“Defense lawyers in a federal criminal case, a complicated one like this, dictate the pace of the case,” he said. “They can make it move quickly if they want to. But, more often, if they want to explore every possible avenue to litigate this case, it can take a lot of time.”

Because charging a member of Congress has become more commonplace, Bookbinder said prosecutors and defense attorneys have precedent  to follow.

“The one thing that I would say is positive coming out of this is that it seems like the Department of Justice — which for a while we thought was being very cautious in going after corruption among members of Congress — it seems like they are being aggressive and really trying to hold people accountable and that’s a good thing,” he said.

Despite calls for his resignation, Fattah has vowed to stay on the job and run for re-election next year. Brand says it’s likely neither the criminal case nor the ethics investigation will be resolved before voters decide whether Fattah deserves another term.

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