For weeks, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah has blasted the federal case against him, calling the charges unfounded and prosecutors' conduct unlawful.
As he made his first court appearance Tuesday on racketeering conspiracy charges, the 11-term Democrat hit those points again and again, lest anyone remain uncertain where he stands.
"I'd like to say that I'm not guilty," Fattah told U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy Rice within moments of the judge's taking the bench.
Rice, who had barely begun the hearing, responded: "We haven't gotten there yet. I have to follow the rules. So just be patient."
Later, as the judge outlined the conditions of Fattah's release before trial, the congressman interjected, "I haven't committed any crime."
Though Tuesday's arraignment hearing was largely a formality, Fattah tackled it with the polish of a practiced politician: Stay on message. Never miss an opportunity to make your point. And never let your opponent see you sweat.
He brushed off questions on his way into court, telling reporters, "I'm hoping the Eagles have a great season. And I'm concerned about that trade of DeSean Jackson." (The Eagles released Jackson after the end of the 2013 football season.)
After Tuesday's hearing, Fattah vowed to fight the case and run for reelection next year.
Flanked by lawyers Kevin V. Mincey and Thomas O. Fitzpatrick, Fattah maintained that he retained the support of his constituents.
"I'm going to never do anything that would embarrass them," he said. "I would not violate any law or regulation or rule. I conduct myself at all times in appropriate ways. I am innocent of each and every one of these allegations."
Still, despite his years of experience in front of TV cameras, the media attention outside the courthouse seemed to flummox even him.
At one point, he walked out into Market Street traffic in an attempt to avoid pursuing cameras. His lawyer finally ushered him into a nearby bank branch to escape the pursuing crowd.
"I'm headed back to work," he called out over his shoulder.
Tuesday's hearing came nearly three weeks after federal authorities unveiled a 29-count indictment alleging Fattah misused campaign cash, charitable donations, and grant money under his control to prop up his flagging 2007 mayoral bid, pay off an illegal $1 million campaign loan, and line the pockets of family members and political allies.
The congressman was released on $100,000 recognizance bail after entering a not-guilty plea. He was also ordered to limit his travel and avoid any contact with potential witnesses or codefendants in his case - though Rice, the judge, granted exceptions to those conditions for Fattah's congressional work.
Fattah was joined in court by two codefendants - longtime family friend Robert Brand and former staffer Karen Nicholas - who are charged with aiding the congressman in the alleged schemes. Both pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.
Two others - Bonnie Bowser, the chief of staff of Fattah's district office, and former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman - were arraigned last week. Fattah's son Chaka "Chip" Jr. faces charges of bank fraud and tax evasion in a separate but related case.
As he left the courthouse Tuesday, the congressman questioned prosecutors' pursuit of those members of his inner circle.
"I understand their desire to come after me, but to take innocent people - to take people in my family - and smear their good name, that says a lot about character," he said. "That's the most unfortunate part of this entire process."
Prosecutors declined to comment Tuesday. They have said they will respond to Fattah's allegations in court.
Staff writer Mark Fazlollah contributed to this article.