Former Texas Congressman has gone to Prison

Steve Stockman was convicted in April after a three-week trial. The FBI announced he has now been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Steve Stockman, a Republican former congressman from Texas, has been convicted of defrauding two conservative mega-donors and funneling their $1.25 million into personal and campaign expenses as part of what prosecutors have described as a “white collar crime spree.”

A jury in federal court in Houston ruled in April that Stockman is guilty of all but one of the 24 felonies he was charged with in March. After about 16 hours of deliberations over three days, the 12-person panel only declined to convict on one of four counts of wire fraud.

Stockman will appeal the verdict, his defense team said.

That verdict puts Stockman — a firebrand conservative who served two nonconsecutive terms in the U.S. House before losing a 2014 challenge to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas — at risk of decades in federal prison. And in the immediate future, it sends him into federal custody, where he will remain pending sentencing in August. U.S. Marshals took him into custody shortly after the verdict was read, over the objections of his lawyers. The prosecution had warned that he might be a “flight risk,” Buckley explained.

Stockman has been on trial in federal court in Houston for nearly a month on corruption charges that include mail and wire fraud, money laundering and violations of federal election law. As he heard the jury’s verdict Thursday, he sat expressionless, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Ryan Patrick, the new U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas and the son of Lt. Gov Dan Patrick, was in the courtroom for the verdict.

“When public officials use their office to defraud donors and violate federal law, we will hold them accountable,” Patrick said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Corrupt officials like former congressman Stockman make it harder for the honest ones to do their jobs.”

Stockman was accused of improperly using charitable donations for unrelated efforts, including campaign and personal expenses ranging from a new dishwasher to undercover surveillance of a perceived political rival.

The Houston-area former lawmaker’s attorneys have claimed that the pair of conservative mega-donors who gave him that money intended for it to serve as campaign contributions and gave the former lawmaker broad leeway for using it. Prosecutors argued that Stockman promised that money would go to specific purposes — including “educating” voters and renovating a conservative “Freedom House” for interns — and that the former lawmaker used his credibility to mislead donors.

Stockman was accused of conspiring with two staffers to bilk conservative foundations out of at least $775,000 that was meant for charitable purposes and voter education. A campaign worker and an aide had previously pleaded guilty to various charges.

Stockman’s attorney, Sean Buckley, has said Stockman committed no crime in using the money as he did. Following his arrest in March 2017, Stockman said a “deep state” shadow government was targeting him.

An FBI affidavit alleged that shortly after beginning his second term in the U.S. House in 2013, Stockman solicited $350,000 in charitable donations from an unidentified wealthy businessman on behalf of Life Without Limits. The Nevada-based nonprofit had been set up to help people through traumatic events.

The donation was solicited for the purpose of renovating a house in Washington called the Freedom House. But the check was deposited at a bank branch in Webster, Texas, into an account set up by Stockman doing business as Life Without Limits, according to the affidavit.

Financial records show that Stockman made no significant expenditures toward the purchase, renovation or operation of Freedom House, which never opened. According to the affidavit, Stockman secretly diverted the money to pay for a variety of personal expenses and to funnel contributions to his campaign under the guise that they were from other people.

His trial included testimony from a conservative operative who said Stockman hired people to spy on three Republican state lawmakers.