Sen. Bob Casey will be allowed to testify in the upcoming federal corruption trial of fellow Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Chaka Fattah.
The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday allowing Casey to do so. That decision came as a judge in Philadelphia denied Fattah’s request to drop portions of a 29-count indictment that includes charges of racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud.
Fattah, who has pleaded innocent in the case, unsuccessfully argued for dismissal of charges pertaining to allegations he sought to obtain federal grant funds for a political consultant’s then-nonexistent nonprofit entity in exchange for forgiveness of $130,000 in campaign debt after a failed bid for mayor of Philadelphia in 2007.
The grant money was not awarded.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Casey was called as a witness by prosecutors over a letter Casey’s office received from Fattah about the appointment of the consultant to a federal office. No action was taken on the appointment request.
The resolution allows Casey to testify at the trial, which is scheduled to start in May, produce documents and be represented by the Senate’s legal counsel.
In seeking the court to throw out charges, Fattah argued those particular counts violated his rights under the Speech and Debate clause, a provision in the Constitution that prevents members from being prosecuted while conducting official business.
In its response on Wednesday, the court found that the provision did not apply in this case.
“[A] promise by a member of Congress to do something in return for a bribe is not protected by the Speech or Debate Clause even if the promise relates to legislation,” the judge’s opinion read. “[T]he Speech or Debate Clause does not make senators and representatives ‘super-citizens, immune from criminal responsibility,’” the opinion continued, citing a Supreme Court case.
In February, Fattah’s son, Chaka Fattah Jr., was sentenced to 60 months in prison on 22 federal counts of bank and tax fraud.
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