A former Republican congressman was convicted of lying to the FBI. Rep. Chris Stewart asked judge to go easy on him.

Jeff Fortenberry was under investigation for accepting illegal campaign donations.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart wrote a letter to a federal judge asking for leniency in the case of former congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who was convicted in March of lying to the FBI.

Rep. Chris Stewart is asking a federal judge to take it easy on a former member of Congress convicted of lying to the FBI as part of an investigation into a fundraising scandal.

Stewart sent a letter supporting former Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, who was convicted on March 25 of one count of scheming to falsify and conceal material facts and two counts of making false statements to federal investigators. He faces up to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced on June 28.

In 2021, Fortenberry was under scrutiny for about $30,000 in illegal campaign donations from a foreign billionaire, Gilbert Chagoury of Nigeria. Chagoury allegedly funneled campaign cash through several straw donors to get around federal laws prohibiting foreign nationals from making political donations.

Stewart wrote a letter to the judge in the case, asking for leniency in Fortenberry’s sentencing.

“Through my years of interactions with Jeff, I have always known him to be a person of great integrity and compassion, which is why this episode is so stunning to me. It is completely out of character with the Mr. Fortenberry that I have known.

“I know him to be a person of faith, honest, soft-spoken and unselfish...With his background of public service and selflessness, I hope you will find a way to grant as much leniency as you are able. I truly believe that would serve the public good,” Stewart wrote.

Stewart’s letter was among dozens submitted by Fortenberry’s lawyers ahead of his sentencing. Federal prosecutors are recommending Fortenberry be sentenced to six months in prison.

Two days before Fortenberry was convicted, Stewart’s reelection campaign made a $1,000 donation to Fortbenberry’s campaign. That donation was among thousands of dollars injected into his campaign on March 23 from his political allies. The Daily Beast reports Fortenberry burned through about $600,000 in donor money to pay legal bills related to his trial, plus $250,000 for a public relations campaign and $30,000 in communications consulting. Rep. John Curtis’ Utah First PAC donated $1,500 to Fortenberry that same month.

Stewart has recently hit Democrats for not being tough enough on crime. The same month that Fortenberry was convicted, Stewart panned President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address for ignoring the reality of “surging crime.” Last summer, Stewart tweeted that “Democrat policy has failed,” again pointing to “surging crime” as one of those failures.

Rep. Stewart’s office did not respond to a request for comment.