Fattah's conviction prompts calls to resign

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah leaves federal courthouse after being convicted. He did not say whether he would resign.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah's conviction on federal corruption charges prompted calls for his resignation Tuesday, while longtime colleagues lamented his fate.

"The jury spoke, and the criminal justice process went forward," Mayor Kenney said at a news conference in Washington.

Kenney declined to state that Fattah (D., Pa.) should step down, but said the congressman's district needs a representative who is able to vote. House ethics rules bar members with criminal convictions from voting on legislation.

"When the dust settles, you've got to give the person a day or so to kind of collect their thoughts and figure out what they want to do, but the district needs a voting member," Kenney said.

U.S. Rep. Robert Brady, a fellow Philadelphia Democrat, said Tuesday he was saddened to hear of Fattah's conviction.

"I've known him 30 years," Brady, the longtime head of the Democratic City Committee, said shortly after the verdict. "He's done an awful lot of good for the city of Philadelphia, for the region, and for the United States. It's a shame to have something like this happen."

Brady said Fattah "would have never been someone that I thought would ever make mistakes or break the law."

Thomas Henry Massaro, a former Philadelphia Housing Authority official who hired Fattah as a 23-year-old with a GED, called his former protege's conviction "a huge disappointment" that stood in contrast to his years of public service.

"A jury verdict that disdains that [service] - well, it's a 1 percent contravention to the other 99 percent," he said.

State Rep. Dwight Evans, who scuttled Fattah's bid for a 12th term in Congress after defeating him in the Democratic primary, said the conviction represented "a sad day for our area," and for Fattah and his family.

"I am committed to move us forward and be the best congressman that I can be," he said in a statement.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell declined to comment. "I'm not saying anything," he said. "I said my piece when I testified."

Rendell testified on behalf on Herbert Vederman, a former deputy mayor in his administration, who was charged along with Fattah. Prosecutors said Vederman, who also was convicted, plied Fattah with money and gifts in exchange for his help in attempting to secure an ambassadorship from the Obama administration.

Outside the courthouse on the day he took the stand earlier this month, Rendell said "cynical" prosecutors had "overreached" in the case. Yet he also said then that if prosecutors could prove their case, Fattah "should be found guilty and go to jail."

Brady did not call for Fattah to resign on Tuesday, saying it was "his call." Even if Fattah did step down, he could be replaced only in a special election called by Gov. Wolf or in the general election in the fall, so the district would lack a vote until then, Brady said.

Brady's Republican counterpart, Chairman Joe DeFelice, said in a statement that the evidence against Fattah had been "damning and conclusive," and that the congressman's only path forward was to relinquish his seat.

Leaving the courthouse Tuesday, Fattah would not say whether he planned to step down, amid calls from a watchdog group in Washington for him to do so. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics called Fattah's conviction "another sad example of the kind of ethical failure we should never see from Congress."

"Fattah used his office for his own personal gain, as well as that of his friends and family," the group said in a statement. "He should resign from Congress immediately."

Jurors leaving the courtroom Tuesday offered little insight into what had moved them to convict. "We are exhausted," said one, walking down Market Street after the four-week trial.

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961@aubreyjwhelan