Federal officials “made false and misleading statements” at a news conference announcing bribery and extortion attempts against suspended Cincinnati City Councilor PG Sittenfeld, his lawyers say.
And the indictment is filled with partial citations attributed to Sittenfeld and “wrongly taken out of context,” according to a motion filed Wednesday morning in federal court in Cincinnati.
It “reads like a press release,” says the application.
The charges were revealed at a November 10 press conference at which both the area’s chief attorney and the FBI officer spoke to reporters.
The motion refers to statements by US attorney David DeVillers, who described the Sittenfeld Political Action Committee as “secret” and a “slush fund”, and the FBI special agent in charge, Chris Hoffman, who said that the control of its own PAC was “against the federal law “.
These statements were inaccurate, says the motion.
Sittenfeld’s PAC for Progress and Growth was publicly available on a government website in February 2018 before Sittenfeld’s undercover investigation began, the motion states. Sittenfeld operated it lawfully, and the Federal Election Commission’s own website shows that he is legally entitled to control it.
“The government’s public voices have falsely misled the public, including the jury pool,” the motion said. “This created the false impression that Mr. Sittenfeld illegally and clandestinely hid his connection to his PAC … and that he illegally and clandestinely controlled it as a slush fund for his personal use. None of this is true. “
Sittenfeld was charged with bribery and attempted extortion in November. Prosecutors say he “corruptly requested and received” payments from developers in return for his votes. According to the indictment, the developers were actually undercover FBI agents who issued Sittenfeld three checks for a total of 40,000 US dollars in 2018 and 2019.
According to the indictment, Sittenfeld did not keep the money to himself, but instead directed it to a political action committee controlled by him.
Last month, Sittenfeld’s attorneys urged the US district judge to dismiss the charges. He said he had not committed any crimes and that the charge is “an everyday American democratic activity”.
This story will be updated.