A federal judge rejected a bid from U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's legal team to dismiss the racketeering conspiracy charges he currently faces, setting the stage for his upcoming trial.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said nothing in the Philadelphia politician's indictment undermined the congressional privilege known as the “speech and debate” clause, which was cited by Fattah’s lawyers as grounds to dismiss the case, Philly.com reported
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The “speech and debate” clause prevents prosecutors from holding lawmakers criminally responsible for their legislative acts, Philly.com added.
Bartle stated in his ruling quoted by Philly.com that "nothing in this indictment threatens the independence of Congressman Fattah acting in his legislative capacity. None of the present allegations, whether viewed separately or together, describes a legislative act."
This is not the first time in recent months that the judge has rejected a request from Fattah’s legal team. Late in January, Bartle denied a request from Fattah’s attorneys to be removed from the congressman’s corruption case because they alleged Fattah was not making good on his payments to them, CBS3 Philadelphia reported.
Fattah’s case, which concerns allegations that the congressman accepted bribes from a lobbyist looking for access to the White House and that he misused charitable contributions, is slated to go to trial in May, according to Philly.com.