It was a prison sentence that seemed to please both sides.
"I'm personally satisfied," said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger today, after Judge Harvey Bartle III hit former Congressman Chaka Fattah with a 10-year prison sentence for his conviction in a racketeering and political corruption case.
"That's a significant sentence," Memeger told a media horde outside the federal courthouse. The feds had asked the judge to put Fattah away for between 17 and 22 years, but 10 years is "a long time to be sitting in prison," Memeger said. He added with a prosecutor's glee that going from Congress to prison would be "a long fall for Chaka Fattah."
Inside the courtroom, Albert S. Dandridge, one of Fattah's lawyers, turned to the congressman's supporters after Judge Bartle had imposed sentence and said, "That's about as good as we could have expected."
As he exited the courthouse, the former congressman seemed to agree. "We respect the court's decision," Fattah said. And then the former congressman thanked his defense lawyers, the nine character witnesses who showed up to testify in his defense today, as well as the more than 200 supporters who wrote the judge on Fattah's behalf, requesting leniency.
When the sentencing hearing began, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson sounded like an evangelical preacher as he condemned the widespread evils of public corruption.
"Public corruption has eroded confidence in our democracy," Gibson told Bartle. Fattah "knew exactly what he was doing" when he stealing money from government grants and charitable foundations to pay for his failed mayoral campaign, as well as for his son's student loans, the prosecutor said.
Gibson asked for the judge to impose maximum sentence of 17 to 22 years to "send a message to the community that public corruption is taken seriously."
Mark M. Lee, one of Fattah's defense lawyers, told the judge that in light of the prison sentence given former state Senator Vincent J. Fumo, 61 months in jail, that a maximum sentence of 17 to 22 years for Fattah seemed "unnecessarily harsh."
Lee then paraded nine character witnesses through the courtroom to testify about the congressman's good deeds during his 37 years in office as a former state representative and U.S. congressman.
The character witnesses quoted Ralph Walso Emerson, the Talmud, and St. Thomas Acquinas as they testified about the congressman's devotion to his constituents.
"I never saw a man more driven in serving his community," said Harris Devor, who praised Fattah's zeal "for educating poor kids," as well as his "deep love for Israel."
"He sacrificed his life to make a difference to others," said Lynne Korman Honickman, a philanthropist who praised Fattah's devotion for educating young people.
Joseph Quinones, a former 10th grade high school dropout, told the judge about how Fattah encouraged "a poor dumb kid from the hood" to get a degree from the Temple University Fox School of Business, as well as an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
Quinones told the judge that compared to all of the good works that Fattah had done during his lifetime, the crimes that he was convicted of were just "a snapshot" or a "moment in time" in the congressman's life.
That prompted Assistant U.S. Attorney Gibson to stand up and exhibit his prowess as a barrister.
Gibson previously had displayed good sense by not bothering to cross-examine any of the character witnesses who were giving emotional speeches on behalf of Fattah. The usual strategy is not to prolong that kind of testimony, and to get the character witnesses out the door as quickly as possible.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gibson made an exception in Quinones's case. The prosecutor seemed offended by Quinones's descriptions of Fattah's transgressions as a snapshot, or a moment in time.
Are you familiar with the crimes Fattah was accused of, Gibson asked. Did you read the indictment? Are you aware Fattah committed his crimes over a seven-year period?
Quinones seemed surprised at being cross-examined, but he quickly recouped. And, when given an opportunity to reprise his talking points, Quinones took full advantage by making a second impassioned speech on behalf of Fattah's good character.
Considering that Fattah began his public career as a teenager campaigning against gang violence, Quinones said, yes, his transgressions were a moment in time for the 60-year-old former congressman, and yes, just a snapshot.
When the character witnesses were finished, Gibson told the judge again about how many years Fattah had been committing his crimes. Gibson attacked the congressman's "arrogance," saying that on some days, Fattah didn't want to show up at his own criminal trial, claiming he was "too busy to attend." Gibson also criticized Fattah's defense, which he said too often amounted to blaming others for his crimes.
When it was Fattah's turn to speak, he termed his indictment as "the most disappointing event of my life." He apologized to his four co-defendants, all of whom are awaiting sentencing, for the "position that they are in."
"They are good people," he said, adding that he was "deeply saddened" that all four of them were also facing jail time.
Fattah expressed regret and sounded apologetic, but he never got around to saying he was guilty of any particular crime. It was consistent with the defense his lawyers put forth at trial, namely that if a couple of Fattah's former political consultants borrowed $1 million from a wealthy donor, and then laundered the money so it could be used to pay off Fattah's campaign debts, those consultants were acting on their own, without the congressman's knowledge.
Even though the most likely person to benefit from that deal was Chaka Fattah.
Fattah referenced his own good deeds, saying, "I've helped tens of millions of people." And then he added that he was "grateful for the opportunity I've had to help people."
"I stand ready to be sentenced," he concluded.
Judge Bartle began by reciting the 18 crimes that Fattah had been found guilty of by a jury that included conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, as well as falsifying records and laundering money.
Those were serious crimes, Bartle said. And the judge wanted to send the proverbial message to other politicians who might be temped to follow Fattah's path into crime.
"Those in high places will certainly know why happens today in this courtroom," the judge said. He agreed with the character witnesses that Fattah had done many good deeds during his career, but that's what he was elected to do, the judge said.
Bartle described the crimes that Fattah was convicted of as "astonishing." The judge talked about the people who had elected Fattah to office for 11 terms in Congress, and said, "You abused the trust they placed in you."
By simultaneously mixing good public deeds with secret crimes, the judge said, Fattah was acting cynically, and "this cynicism saps the strength of our democracy."
"You've made some bad choices," the judge told Fattah. And now you're going to pay for it.
The judge then sentenced Fattah to 10 years in jail, to be followed by three years of supervised probation.
The judge fined the defendant $614,500, and told him to report to jail on Jan. 25, 2017. The judge also took under advisement a motion by the government to revoke Fattah's bail.