Judge insists an indicted GOP congressman cannot be trusted with case-related evidence: report
Just one week after Rep. Jeff Fortenberry's (R-Neb.) indictment, a federal judge moved to bar the lawmaker from possibly tampering with evidence. This week, Judge Stanley Blumenfield in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued a court order in favor of prosecutors who were concerned about Fortenberry's trustworthiness in handling evidence pertaining to the cooperating witnesses.
The congressman has been charged with lying to a the FBI about an illegal foreign scheme to donate to his campaign.
According to The Daily Beast, the judge's new order "prohibits Fortenberry from taking notes or 'memorializing' the evidence, and even requires his lawyers to ensure he is 'never left alone with any Cooperator Materials.'"
"Defendant may not take any Cooperator Materials out of the room in which defendant is meeting with the Defense Team. At no time, under no circumstance, will any Cooperator Materials be left in the possession, custody, or control of defendant, regardless of defendant's custody status," the judge wrote.
"Because these materials could be used to identify the confidential informants or cooperating witnesses," the judge continued, "the Court finds that the unauthorized dissemination or distribution of the materials may compromise the ability of such persons to participate effectively in future investigations in an undercover capacity and/or may expose him/her to potential safety risks."
Several witnesses have been listed in connection with Fortenberry's case. They include his chief of staff Dr. Reyn Archer, some of his current and former aides, and multiple undercover witnesses.
The judge also expressed concern about Fortenberry possibly divulging information about other relative investigations.
"A protective order for the discovery is also necessary so that the government can produce to the defense materials related to sensitive and ongoing investigations, including those related to public officials," the judge wrote, adding that "disclosure of this information without limitation risks the privacy and security of the information's legitimate owners."
The latest development comes just one week after Fortenberry was charged with "one count of 'scheming to falsify and conceal material facts' and two counts of lying to federal investigators." Prosecutors insist Fortenberry "repeatedly lied to and misled authorities" as they investigated illegal contributions made to his campaign by Gilbert Chagoury, an international businessman who is federally banned from donating to U.S. election campaigns.
Despite the charges Fortenberry is facing, he denies any wrongdoing.