U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry is asking that his federal trial, for allegedly lying to federal agents, be moved from California to Nebraska.
In a request filed Monday, Fortenberry’s attorney said his trial could “go forward safely” in Nebraska, where federal trials are still being held. In California, trials have been suspended until the end of February because of a surge in COVID-19 cases there.
The trial would cost less in Nebraska, Fortenberry’s attorney argued, and would be closer to where one of the alleged false statements was made — at Fortenberry’s Lincoln home.
In addition, the congressman’s lawyers said, Fortenberry needs a speedy trial to “clear his name” because he now faces election challengers from “both the left and the right.”
“His primary opponent has cited the pending charges in this case as a reason voters should turn Congressman Fortenberry out of office and instead vote for them,” the motion stated. “Congressman Fortenberry needs to quickly proceed to trial and clear his name.”
Fortenberry’s trial in U.S. District Court in the central district of California is scheduled to begin Feb. 15. The primary election in Nebraska is scheduled May 10.
Just last week, State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, a fellow Republican, announced that he would challenge Fortenberry in the May primary. Flood’s candidacy quickly drew endorsements from both Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Gov. Dave Heineman — two Republicans who often disagree — who cited the “uncertainty” of Fortenberry’s re-election chances because of his legal troubles.
U.S. District Judge Stanley Blumenfeld has already rejected a request by Fortenberry’s attorneys to move the trial out of California. Monday’s motion, however, specifically asks that it be moved to Nebraska.
Fortenberry, 60, has represented eastern Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District since 2005. His re-election campaign has been under way for some weeks, but he just recently issued a video — from the seat of his pickup truck — reaffirming that he was running for another term in Congress.
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