By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Chaka Fattah Jr., son of the Philadelphia congressman, is now both client and legal counsel in federal court.
Indicating disagreements with his current defense counsel and against the blunt advice of trial judge Harvey Bartle III, Chaka Fattah Jr. has decided to represent himself in his federal fraud and tax evasion trial, scheduled to begin in March.
Before accepting the decision, Judge Bartle strongly urged Fattah not to represent himself, saying that it is unwise and that a lawyer would do a better job.
But Fattah was resolute.
“My former attorneys and current standby counsel at the Federal Defenders Office are experienced professionals and we disagree on certain matters that are of the utmost importance,” he said afterward outside the federal courthouse in center city. “I think it is clear that — you heard the judge — my life is on the line here. Nobody is going to be able to make it for 418 years” (the maximum sentence he could get if convicted on all counts and served sequentially).
Fattah maintains his innocence and says he plans motions attacking the heart of the government’s case.