Chaka Fattah says he’s not guilty, emphatic about his innocence

Chaka Fattah says he’s not guilty, emphatic about his innocence
Charles Mostoller

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, made his first court appearance on Tuesday, proclaiming his innocence on corruption charges early and often during a brief hearing.

Fattahis accused of accepting bribes, using federal funds to repay campaign debts and using campaign contributions to pay his son’s student loan debts.

“You understand that you don’t have to say anything?” U.S. Magistrate Timothy Rice said at the beginning of the hearing.

“I would like to say that I’m not guilty,” Fattah said.

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Rice replied.

Related: Congressman’s wife says there was not sham car sale.

Arraignment hearings are usually formalities in which a judge sets bail, and thedefendant hears a formal reading of the charges.

Fattah went on to plead not guilty at the appropriate time, and then at least one other time during the 15 minute hearing. He did it again before a gaggle of reporters waiting outside the federal courthouse for him.

“The contract Ihave with my community, the warranty’s still good,” Fattahsaid.”I would never do anything to embarrass them.”

Related: If Fattah steps down, it’s a party affair.

The 29-count indictment announcedin July says thatFattah and four others used sham contracts, charitable contributions and in one instance, a non-existent entity to enrich himself and his friends.

Bail for the congressman was set at $100,000 but he was not required to post it, meaning that if he commits a crime or violates the conditions of bail, he might have to pay $100,000. He was also ordered to surrender his personal passport, but not the diplomatic one he uses for congressional travel.

Prosecutors asked that Fattahbe ordered not to contact witnesses in the case. Fattah’s lawyers didn’t agree because they said they don’t know who the witnesses are. Prosecutors are expected to submit a list in the coming days.