The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has accomplished what former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah could not in two appeals. It sprang the disgraced pol early from lockup.
A bureau spokesperson confirms that Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat sentenced in 2016 to 10 years on corruption charges, returned to the city June 8 from a federal prison near Scranton and will serve the rest of his sentence either in a halfway house or under house arrest.
But the bureau refused to say why the former congressman had been released more than five years before the scheduled 2025 date.
Fattah’s attorney, Sam Silver, declined to comment Wednesday.
Clout hears that Fattah is staying with his wife, former NBC10 anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah, who sold the couple’s East Falls stone manse in 2018 and moved to Chestnut Hill. The couple did not respond to requests for comment.
The release appears to have been a Bureau of Prisons call. The U.S. Attorney’s Office referred all questions its way. And there are no filings in the court case about the action. The most recent filing came last week, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit formally rejected Fattah’s second appeal after a hearing in May.
Fattah has long been trying to shave time off one of the longest prison terms ever given to a member of Congress. The same appeals court tossed some of the bribery counts from his conviction in 2018. But a judge last year kept his 10-year sentence intact.
That sentence was based on convictions for racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, and mail, wire, and bank fraud. A jury found that Fattah had stolen federal grant funds, charitable donations, and campaign cash for years.
One source familiar with Fattah’s release speculated that it was influenced by concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in federal prisons. As Clout has reported, the pandemic set off a scramble for early release by Philly politicians serving federal time.
One of them was Fattah’s codefendant, former Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, who was released in May to serve on house arrest the rest of his two-year term for bribing Fattah. Vederman had been serving time in Otisville, N.Y. He was sentenced last September.
Not everyone has benefited from BOP benevolence. Some have turned to the courts.
Former Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione-Matos lost another bid for release in a court ruling last week, and is still at a Danbury, Conn., prison for bleeding more than $2 million from a publicly funded mental health and addiction nonprofit she operated.
Former Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, imprisoned for extorting campaign contributions from contractors seeking city business, is still set for a 2031 release from the men’s facility in Danbury, a hot spot for coronavirus cases.
And ex-Traffic Court official William Hird, caught in the ticket-fixing scandal that shuttered the court, is still locked up in Schuylkill County.
GOP AG nominee targets Josh Shapiro, hits herself
Heather Heidelbaugh, the Republican nominee trying to defeat Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in his bid for a second term, posted a campaign video this week knocking him for not denouncing Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s call for a reconciliation commission to examine flaws in the criminal justice system.
It didn’t go as she planned. The video uses the faces of Philadelphia police officers killed in the line of duty. John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in the city, was furious.
“Keep our dead heroes out of your political ads … especially without permission,” McNesby tweeted, urging his followers to contact Heidelbaugh’s campaign.
Heidelbaugh spokesperson Dennis Roddy, in response, complained that she waited months for a sit-down with the FOP and never received a reply to her request.
“It was very clear the FOP is going to endorse Josh Shapiro,” he said. “We couldn’t even get a meeting.”
McNesby stuck to his guns, calling for Heidelbaugh to remove the officers from her video.
“This isn’t about Josh or the FOP,” he said. “I could care less who people vote for.”
Shapiro’s camp denounced the use of the fallen “shameful” and a “desperate political attack ad.”
‘Johnny Doc’ has a story to [not] tell
It could have been a compelling hour of political talk radio. John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the indicted leader of Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, called in Saturday to Talk Radio 1210-WPHT and declared he has a story to tell about “loads of corruption” in his case.
And then, he didn’t tell it. Instead, listeners to Saturday Night Live With Philly Labor heard 60 minutes of stream-of-consciousnesses from Dougherty, occasionally interspersed with fawning questions from the hosts.
Dougherty, complaining about the feds tapping his telephone calls, vowed to spell out “the magnitude of the abuse I went through.”
“When I tell this story, people are going to sit back and their jaws are going to drop,” Dougherty said. “They listened to my calls for 18 months, 16 or 18, whatever the heck it was. That’s more than any bomber, drug dealer, or mass murderer gets listened to.”
Clout asked Dougherty to substantiate his claims. He passed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also declined to comment.
Dougherty, City Councilmember Bobby Henon, and six other Local 98 officials are accused of embezzling more than $600,000 from the union. They have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is set for Oct. 26.