Newly jailed Chaka Fattah gets some advice from his incarcerated son
AS FORMER U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah prepared to move in to a federal prison last week, his son offered a bit of advice:
Bring an extra pair of glasses.
"If they get broken or stolen in there," the younger Fattah explained, "it can take three to six months to get them replaced."
And Chaka "Chip" Fattah Jr. - a self-styled "entrepreneur, socialite, and lifestyle mogul" and outspoken offspring of the man who represented Philadelphia in Congress for more than two decades - should know.
Last year, he blazed the trail on which his father embarked Wednesday: acclimating from a life at the top of city society to the confinement of a rural federal detention center.
In a telephone interview from the low-security detention center where he resides in eastern Michigan, the younger Fattah, 33, described his own transition and expressed confidence that his father, too, would survive the adjustment.
"He seems upbeat," said Fattah Jr., who is serving a five-year sentence for bank and tax fraud charges unrelated to his father's case. "He seems pretty OK for this whole prison-camp thing [knowing] I've been incarcerated for a year."
Sure, there are challenges, the younger Fattah admitted.
"If I say the wrong thing or sit in the wrong seat in the TV room during Empire, that could lead to a fight," he said. "There's a lot of arguments here over things that seem trivial in the outside world."
The lack of an internet connection also has been trying for the hashtag-happy social-media addict.
"That's the biggest challenge, especially for a young person," he said. "I know my dad's, like, a news junkie. When you're used to getting information like that, it can be a hassle."
But life on the inside, Fattah Jr. maintained, is not as dour as the words federal prison might imply.
"Man, I'm playing chess," he said. "I've got an MP3 player [bought at the prison commissary] with 180 songs on it." (His current favorite? "Starboy" by The Weeknd.)
The two Fattahs will not - as some had wondered after the congressman was sentenced in December to 10 years for corruption-related crimes - be sharing a prison cell.
Since April, Fattah Jr. has been housed at Federal Correctional Institution-Milan, a low-security prison outside Ann Arbor with about 1,500 inmates.
His father, 60, was sent to a federal prison camp more than 300 miles away in McKean County, Pa., near the New York-Pennsylvania border.
In the phone call last week, Fattah Jr. likened his digs to an Old City loft. "There are no cell doors," he said. "Think loft-style with a desk and two lockers and a bunk bed."
Then again, he always has been inclined to aggrandize.
At his 2015 trial during which he represented himself, federal prosecutors described Fattah Jr. as a habitual con artist who cloaked himself in luxury goods and a hollow sheen of success to bilk banks, his own clients, and taxpayers out of thousands of dollars.
But the charges were all but overshadowed by the colorful details of his extravagant personal life, from his collection of Italian designer suits and Hermes ties to the framed American Express black cards he hung as art in his $600,000 Ritz-Carlton condo in Center City.
Despite Fattah Jr.'s claims of running several successful businesses, a college roommate testifying for the government drew chuckles with his description of the self-styled mogul's predilection for loafing on the couch, watching Law & Order marathons and bingeing on Fiesta Pizza.
Hold the pepperoni