PHILADELPHIA (AP) — U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah can't keep federal criminal investigators out of his personal email, a federal appeals court ruled.
The ruling Wednesday clears the way for prosecutors to sift through seven years of the Philadelphia Democrat's private email as they prepare for his racketeering trial next year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported (http://bit.ly/1Vzy2Ha ).
Fattah is accused of misusing federal grants and charitable donations. He has fought for months to block an FBI search warrant seeking access to his correspondence. He claimed investigators couldn't get into his email, citing a congressional privilege typically used to protect lawmakers from interference by the executive branch.
He cited the "speech and debate clause," a provision of the Constitution shielding lawmakers from being questioned by investigators or held criminally responsible from their legislative actions.
But Judge Julio Fuentes wrote in the court's ruling that the clause was not an all-purpose shield to protect lawmakers from criminal investigations. Fuentes said it may prevent some emails from being used against him at his trial, but it doesn't prohibit prosecutors from obtaining the information as part of their probe.
Fattah's office declined to comment on the ruling. His attorney, Luther Weaver III, also declined to comment, saying he had not had a chance to read the opinion.
Fattah was charged in July with racketeering conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and other crimes. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com