Earlier this year, Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. sued the U.S. Justice Department, claiming it was attempting to prosecute him on bank and tax fraud charges for statements that should be protected by the First Amendment.
Now, a federal judge has tossed that lawsuit, in part because the typically loquacious son of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah failed to speak up to defend it.
In an order filed last week, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III dismissed the suit because Fattah, 32, failed to meet a court deadline to respond to government arguments that his claims were meritless and, by now, moot. A jury convicted the congressman's son on 22 counts last month.
By all accounts, Fattah was not headed for a courtroom victory in his civil case. Prosecutors convinced jurors that he was a con artist who cheated banks, his consulting clients, and taxpayers out of thousands of dollars so he could outfit himself in luxury, and then lied about his income to persuade creditors to accept a loss on his debts.
Fattah "has no First Amendment right to engage in fraud," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Margaret L. Hutchinson and John T. Crutchlow wrote in a filing in the civil case last month.
Fattah said he missed the deadline Wednesday because he had more pressing matters on his mind.
He faces sentencing in February for the fraud convictions, which could send him to prison for at least four years. He has steadfastly denied the charges.
Meanwhile, he is pursuing another civil suit against the government over an FBI agent's admitted leaking of details of the case against him to the news media before he had been indicted. Fattah has said the leak and the headlines that followed damaged his ability to earn a living while preparing for his defense.
That case is has been put on hold until the resolution of Fattah's criminal case.