PHILADELPHIA -- The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has accomplished what attorneys for former U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah could not after two appeals -- springing the disgraced politician early from lockup.
A BOP spokesperson confirmed that Fattah, a Philadelphia Democrat sentenced in 2016 to 10 years on corruption charges, returned to the city on 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 BOP refused to say why the congressman had been released, more than five years before his scheduled 2025 release date.
Fattah's attorney, Sam Silver, declined to comment Wednesday.
Fattah is reportedly staying with his wife, former NBC-10 anchor Renee Chenault-Fattah, who sold the couple's stone manse in East Falls in 2018 and moved to Chestnut Hill. The couple did not respond to requests for comment.
The release appears to have been a BOP call. The U.S. Attorney's Office referred all questions their way. And there are no filings in the congressman's court case about the action. The most recent filing came last week, when the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals formally rejected his second appeal after a hearing in May.
Fattah has been trying to shave time off one of the longest prison terms ever handed down 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 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 The Philadelphia Inquirer has previously reported, the pandemic set off a scramble for Philly politicians serving federal time to get early release.
One of them was Fattah's co-defendant, former Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Herbert Vederman, who was released in May to serve the rest of his two-year term on house arrest for bribing Fattah. Vederman had been serving time in Otisville, New York.
But not everyone has benefited from BOP benevolence. Some have turned to courts to intervene.
Former Deputy City Commissioner Renee Tartaglione-Matos lost another bid for release, in a court ruling last week, and is still serving time at a Danbury, Connecticut, 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 date from the men's facility in Danbury, which has been 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.
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