Fattah pleads not guilty in racketeering case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah (fa-TAH') has pleaded not guilty in a federal racketeering case.

The 11-term Philadelphia Democrat is vowing to fight the charges in a July 29 indictment, which include racketeering conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud.

Federal prosecutors say he paid off an illegal $1 million campaign loan with federal grants and charitable donations, and funneled campaign funds toward his son's student loan.

On Tuesday, in his first court appearance, Fattah said, "I plead innocent - not guilty." He later volunteered to the judge, "I haven't committed any crime."

He was released on $100,000 bail but didn't have to post any of that amount. He surrendered his passport but can travel domestically and will be allowed to go overseas for any congressional business.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Pennsylvania Congressmen Chaka Fattah is set for his first court appearance in a federal racketeering case that centers on his alleged use of grants and charitable donations to repay a $1 million campaign loan.

Fattah, 58, is scheduled to appear Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia for an initial appearance before a judge.

The 11-term Democrat has vowed to fight the charges in the July 29 indictment, which include racketeering conspiracy, bribery and mail fraud.

Federal prosecutors say he paid off an illegal $1 million campaign loan with federal grants and charitable donations, and funneled campaign funds toward his son's student loan.

Defense lawyer Kevin Mincey said the congressman will fight the charges at trial. Fattah sent a letter Monday asking the judiciary and oversight committees to preserve all material related to the case and to review it for "unconstitutional or unlawful behavior." He said that lawmakers have been targeted by "unconstitutional and illegal investigations" for decades.

The indictment describes four schemes, two involving efforts to erase debts from Fattah's failed 2007 mayoral bid. The U.S. Department of Justice charged that Fattah used federal grants and donations to his educational foundations to pay back part of a wealthy donor's loan.

Fattah has dismissed the yearslong investigation and said he's "never been involved in wrongdoing, any unlawful activity (or) any misappropriation of federal funds."

He plans to remain in office, but stepped down from his leadership post as the top Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees spending for Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies.

The case has already ensnared two former aides, who have pleaded guilty to charges linked to Fattah's campaign debt, and his namesake son, who awaits trial on an overlapping case that includes charges he misspent $930,000 in federal education funding.

His son, Chaka Fattah Jr., also is under indictment in a separate but related case being handled by the same prosecutors.

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