Lobbyist seeks trial separate from Rep. Fattah, wary of guilt by association

 U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Lobbyist and former Deputy Philadelphia Mayor Herbert Vederman says the only way he could have a fair shot at defending himself against federal bribery charges is if he has his own trial. He says just being in the courtroom, tried alongside U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, could make the jury think he’s guilty by association.

That’s what attorneys for Vederman are arguing in a new filing in the 29-count federal indictment against Fattah, Vederman, and others, on racketeering conspiracy charges.

The supposed “prejudicial spillover,” Vederman’s attorneys argue, could taint the jury, saying “the jury’s inability to segregate the evidence” is enough of a reason to give Vederman his own day in court.

July’s indictment, his attorneys say, is the first bad mark against the lobbyist.

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“Vederman, who until the charges in this case had an unblemished reputation in the business world and in public service,” his attorneys wrote.

Vederman stands charged of 8 of the 29 counts in the indictment for several episodes.

First, prosecutors accuse Vederman of bribing Fattah with a sham sale of a Porsche in order to secure a job for his girlfriend in Fattah’s office. In addition, authorities allege that Vederman wrote checks to the congressman’s son, Chip Fattah, some of which he allegedly gave to his father. Further, the government says Vederman assisted the Fattah’s au pair with her college tuition payments and acted as a sponsor for her visa application.

They allege it was a quid-pro-quo scheme, and Vederman was hoping his reward could be a coveted White House ambassadorship position from the Obama administration.

The notion that one could bribe or buy an ambassadorial appoint form the White House, Vederman’s attorneys say, is “absurd.”

A slew of additional filings in the Fattah case are expected today, since it’s the deadline for pre-trial motions.

One of Vederman’s attorneys, Bob Welsch, said a motion to dismiss, and several other responses, are to be filed soon.

“The government will seek to tar the congressman with allegations of personal greed and abuse of his office but the government’s theories will be based on something dramatically different than bribery allegations against the congressman and Mr. Vederman,” the lobbyist’s defense attorneys wrote.

An hour into a community meeting in Cobbs Creek Thursday night about the Muslim community responding to the shooter who ambushed a Philadelphia police officer, Fattah moved through the packed audience and took a seat in the front of the stage.

He told the audience that the neighborhood isn’t in his Congressional district, so his attendance wasn’t politically motivated, but instead, he was there out of love for West Philadelphia, he said. 

After the event, Fattah would neither discuss his nor his son’s federal cases.

“I’m here in support of what’s happening in this community, but I’d be happy to take about any other subject at another, much more appropriate time than in this manner,” Fattah.

Fattah, Vederman and three co-defendants are scheduled to stand trial on May 2.

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