A federal judge on Friday granted permission for Chaka Fattah Jr. to represent himself in a tax and bank fraud case that could send him to prison for life if he is convicted.
U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III agreed to allow Fattah, son of U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), to be his own lawyer.
Before ruling, Bartle carefully instructed Fattah, 32, on each of the criminal charges he faced and added that the case carries a maximum penalty of 418 years in prison and $12.4 million in fines.
"I strongly urge you not to try to represent yourself," the judge said.
Fattah, who is not a lawyer, insisted he wanted to handle his own defense, saying, "I want the opportunity to address the court in my own voice."
Hearing that, Bartle said: "You're on your own." But he also gave Fattah the option to request legal help from the Public Defender's Office at any time.
After the hearing, Fattah said having backup counsel at the ready was "a great thing."
Fattah is accused of providing false information to banks when he took out personal loans and loans for his consulting business.
Fattah, who has pleaded not guilty, said the prosecutor's real target in the case was "a federal elected official from Philadelphia," a reference to his father.