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Honduras Police Tigre Bonilla Got Free Lawyer By Saying Zero Funds But Now Many Detailed

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book
BBC-Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN NY Mag

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 10 – After the president of Honduras' brother Tony Hernandez was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to life plus thirty years, on April 21, 2022 the ex-president himself, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was extradited to the United States.

  Inner City Press which covered the trials of Tony Hernandez and Giovanny Fuentes Ramirez immediatley published the unsealed JOH indictment, which was returned on January 27, 2022 but left under seal.

On May 11, JUAN CARLOS BONILLA VALLADARES, or Tigre Bonilla, formerly of the Honduran National Police, was presented and Inner City Press live tweeted it here and below.

In the proceeding, Bonilla swore to a sealed affidavit that he is entitled to a US taxpayer funded lawyer - despite the narco-trafficking charges and a bag of cash in the courtroom (see below).

  On May 26 after Inner City Press got Bonilla's affidavit unsealed, it emerged that he swore under penalty of perjury he owns no property: no house, no car, no boat, no stocks, no other property. Affidavit here.

It is now clear that Bonilla lied on his sworn affidavit. On June 10, 30 days after Bonilla swore he had nothing, this seizure notice from Honduras: "This is a residence in Lomas de Toncontín de Comayagüela, Francisco Morazán, a 50-block farm equivalent to 350,000 square meters in the village of Las Ánimas, Danlí, El Paraíso, a plot of land in Ciudad Jardín, Choloma, Cortés, three luxury vehicles and nine bank accounts, which according to the proceedings of the UFADPOL and the ATIC do not have legal origin.  Likewise, four commercial companies called Inversiones Sofía S. de RL de CV (without operating), Transportes Bonilla, which according to the Revenue Administration Service (SAR) reflects an operating profit of less than L.400,000.00, Transportes Rapidos Unidos Sociedad Anónima of which its functionality could not be determined as it was not legally registered and Transportes Rapidos de Honduras SA  In total, over ten million six hundred and eighty-nine thousand one hundred and one lempiras and 47 cents (L.10,689,101.47) Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares could not prove a nature or justified cause, there being a financial and patrimonial inconsistency with respect to the income he received in the last seven years of his police career.  In addition, from 2007 to 2016, the investigation period, the former police chief acquired three personal property, which are valued at three million one hundred sixteen thousand four hundred ninety-eight lempiras (L.3,116,498.00)." Now what?

On May 11, Inner City Press filed a request to unseal the affidavit (photo here).

On May 12, Judge Parker ordered the US Attorney's Office and Bonilla / his lawyer to respond by May 20, photo here.

When neither responded, Inner City Press wrote in again on May 24. On May 25, Judge Parker ruled to release, noting standing and saying release of CJA 23s is the law of the Circuit:

"Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares (“Defendant”) was arrested on a Complaint issued from  this District and presented before me on May 11, 2022. At the proceeding, I reviewed a Financial Affidavit submitted by the Defendant that purported to describe the Defendant’s financial circumstances. (ECF No. 4.) Based on the Financial Affidavit, I determined that the  Defendant qualified for court-appointed counsel pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act (“CJA”), 18  U.S. Code § 3006A. (ECF No. 5.) The Financial Affidavit was filed under seal. On May 11, 2022, Matthew Russell Lee (“Lee”), a reporter with Inner City Press, filed a  letter intervening on behalf of the public and requesting that the Financial Affidavit be  unsealed. (ECF No. 6.)

FN: As a public journalist, Lee has standing to intervene in this matter and assert the public’s First Amendment right  to access judicial documents. Id. at 44, n.2; see also United States v. Aref, 533 F.3d 72, 81 (2d Cir. 2008) (holding  that a motion to intervene to assert the public's First Amendment right of access to criminal proceedings is  proper).

 Lee argued that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution  guarantees the public a right to access judicial documents such as the Financial Affidavit, and  that unsealing the Financial Affidavit is consistent with precedent in this Circuit. On May 12,  2022, I ordered the Defendant and the Government to file any responses to Lee’s request by  May 20, 2022. Neither party filed a response.  For the reasons that follow, I find that the Financial Affidavit should be unsealed. 

DISCUSSION The First Amendment provides the public with a qualified right to access a wide variety  of judicial documents filed in connection with criminal proceedings. United States v. Avenatti,  550 F. Supp. 3d 36, 44 (S.D.N.Y. 2021) (collecting cases).1 That right applies to financial  affidavits such as the one at issue. Id. at 46 (finding that there is a “qualified First Amendment  right of access to [a] Financial Affidavit[]”submitted to assist the court in determining whether a  defendant is eligible for court-appointed counsel); see also United States v. Suarez, 880 F.2d  626, 629 (2d Cir. 1989) (finding that there is a First Amendment right to access “CJA forms on  which judicial officers have approved payments to attorneys”).  Where, as here, the “First Amendment framework applies, continued sealing of the  document[] may be justified only with specific, on-the-record findings that sealing is necessary  to preserve higher values and only if the sealing order is narrowly tailored to achieve that aim.”  Lugosch v. Pyramid Co. of Onondaga, 435 F.3d 110, 119 (2d Cir. 2006). As there are no “on-therecord findings that sealing is necessary,” and insofar as no objections to unsealing have been  made, continued sealing of the Financial Affidavit is not appropriate. Id.; see also Avenatti, 550  F. Supp. 3d at 46 (granting request to unseal defendant’s financial affidavit).  CONCLUSION For the reasons set forth above, Lee’s request to unseal the Financial Affidavit (ECF No.  6) is GRANTED. The clerk of the court is directed to unseal the document at issue (ECF No. 4)."  Watch this site.

From May 11: The court interpreter is setting up. A lawyer named Raoul comes in. And here is Tigre Bonilla, in a white T-shirt.

Tigre Bonilla is being whispered to by his lawyer Raoul, an interpreter between them. Here comes the judge.

Magistrate Judge Katharine Parker: Date of arrest? AUSA Tarlow: He was extradited from Honduras yesterday. Judge Parker: You have the right for us to notify your consulate. [Ha]

It seems Bonilla is getting a lawyer paid for by the US taxpayers...

Judge Parker: Do you swear this financial info is true? Bonilla: Si. [Remember this] Judge Parker: I therefore appoint a lawyer for you.

Judge Parker: The US is seeking detention? AUSA: Yes. Bonilla's lawyer: We consent, gor now. Control date June 10. Adjourned.  

Afterward, the agenta gave Bonilla's (free) lawyer Raoul Zaltzberg his belongings, including "an undetermined amount of US currency, which we sealed." Inner City Press asked the lawyer if he was the day's Criminal Justice Act lawyer on duty. No, he said. We'll have more on this.

The case is US v. Bonilla Valladares, 20-mj-4462 (Parker)

  For Juan Orlando Hernandez the indictment is under the same docket number of Tony Hernandez, 15-cr-379, before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge P. Kevin Castel. 

On May 10, Juan Orlando Hernandez was brought into court to be arraigned. Inner City Press live tweeted it, thread here and below

OK - here for Honduras Juan Orlando Hernandez arraignment on narco-trafficking charges. For his 2d term he was backed up by UNSG  @AntonioGuterres . Now 1 of the 2 is arrested / lectura de cargos de Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández por cargos de narcotráfico.

 JOH has entered in prison blue T-shirt. Courtroom is full. He points at his heart, looking at someone in the gallery. Interpreter is speaking through microphone and headphones to him.

 There are 3 U.S. Marshals accompanying JOH, one standing behind him, two by the door of the cell block he came in through. We are waiting for Judge Castel.

Judge Castel: We are here for US v. Juan Orlando Hernandez. Raymond Colon: On behalf of Mr. Juan Orlando Hernandez Alvarado. Judge Castel: I have a superseding indictment. Mr. Colon, has the defendant discussed it with you?

 Colon: Yes. Judge Castel: How do you plead? JOH: Not guilty, Your Honor. Judge Castel: Let me hear about the discovery. AUSA: We have electronic files including social media messages from the defendant. We are 60 days to complete production.

Judge Castel: Do you have wiretaps and search warrant returns? AUSA: Yes. Judge Castel: Any post-arrest statement? AUSA: No. Judge Castel: Mr. Colon, any motions? Colon: Yes sir.

Judge Castel: How about you come back in 120 days to make any motions? Colon: Yes. Judge Castel:  So, the latter half of September...  [JOH is taking notes on a yellow legal pad. A woman in the front row is having interpretation whispered in her ear.]

 Judge Castel: So September 28 at 11 am.  Colon: I'd like to put something on the record. I have the honor of representing the former president of Honduras. The people in the gallery wish to show their admiration for him (?)

 [Outside on Worth Street a crowd is chanting for JOH to be given at least the same life plus thirty years his brother Tony got]

Colon: It was difficult meeting my client in the MDC. It undermines the 6th Amendment. I should not have to do a daily vetting process Colon: My client, since he has arrived, has been denied commissary privileges. We have tried to deposit money but it is rejected. He's been there for 20 days without any access to the commissary. He has not been allowed to call his family.

Colon: My paralegals can get in to see him, but I cannot. I do not think I am on any watchlist. He has also been denied access to emails. He is in a segregated unit. I understand. I was assistant commission of jails in NY (?) but why no exercise?

 Colon: He's in K.H. 4, he's the only inmate there. He's being treated like a prisoner of war. In the basketball court he is not given a ball.

 Colon: He's not a terrorist. He hasn't harmed anyone -- [Loud coughing in the gallery. Many here do not agree that JOH "has not harmed anyone."]

 Judge Castel: I'd like the prosecutors to look into any restrictions on Mr. Colon's access to his client, and to report to me in one week, seven days. If there is material that needs to be under seal, so be it, it can be.

Judge Castel: As to his placement in the SHU [Special Housing Unit], it's not what we do as the judiciary. Mr. Colon, after that report, you could write to me. AUSA: We are determining if a classified briefing will be needed. We'll say in 60 days.

AUSA: We move to exclude time under the Speedy Trial Act until Sep 28. Judge Castel: I intend to pick a trial date on Sept. 28, and I just Tues January 17, 2023 would work for a trial. Adjourned

On April 25, despite a mis-report by Radio HRN that Juan Orlando Hernandez is in the MCC jail (it is closed, after Jeffrey Epstein), JOH appeared in the US Bureau of Prisons database as placed in the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, where accused CIA leaker Joshua Schulte and Ghislaine Maxwell, pending her sentencing this summer, are detained. Photo here. Watch this site.

Back on April 21, a lawyer filed a notice of appearance to represent JOH: Raymond L. Colon of 131 Pugsley Avenue in The Bronx, with 30 other cases over the years in SDNY.

On April 22 by video Colon represented JOH at his presentment. Inner City Press live tweeted here:

OK - now the presentment of former Honduras president Juan Orlando Hernandez. He is visible on screen with a phone in his ear, in the same jacket he was extradited from Tegucigalpa in.

 Now JOH, maskless, is talking into telephone handset. His volume is down; his lawyer Raymond Colon is on another line, says, "I am back if anyone is looking for me." JOH will be using an interpreter.

 For the government: AUSA Elinor Tarlow. JOH, with a white wall behind him, is looking wistfully out a window to his right. And here's Magistrate Judge Aaron, apparently from his chambers

Raymond Colon is not visible by video. Just Judge Aaron, AUSA Tarlow and, on the big screen, JOH. Judge Aaron: Mr. Orlando Hernandez, are you able to understand me? JOH: Yes, through the interpreter.

AUSA Tarlow is the only one using the blurring function on her video camera. Colon: I have discussed this with my client. He agrees to proceed virtually. Judge Aaron: Mr. Orlando Hernandez, you agree? JOH: Es correcto.

 Judge Aaron: Mr. Orlando Hernandez, you are charged with certain crimes... You have the right to remain silent.  We have have to notify your country that you have been arrested. [No irony there.]

Judge Aaron: A grand jury returned an indictment against you for cocaine importation, possession of machine guns, conspiracy. Since 2004 to 2022 you allegedly participated in a drug trafficking organization and received millions to support DTOs in Honduras, Mexico

AUSA Tarlow: The Government is seeking detention.

Colon: We consent but may file a request for release on bail later, once we get the sureties in place. Judge Aaron: I'm aware there was an extradition here. AUSA Tarlow: He arrived here at 12:50 am.

 AUSA Tarlow: There is an arraignment on May 10 at 11 am before Judge Castel. We move to exclude Speedy Trial Act time. Colon: No objection.  Judge Aaron (after 5f notice, through which JOH nods and stares out the window) We are adjourned.

 Post script: After the proceeding, word is that Juan Orlando Hernandez is in the custody of the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA - hence the better than normal conditions he Zoomed in from.

 Previously, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres why he supported already-disgraced JOH in helping to steal his second election, by sending a four person panel with no read-out.

There has still been no answer from UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric - but Guterres' head of media access Melissa Fleming has banned Inner City Press, ongoing. 

On April 21 Inner City Press posted vlogs in English and Spanish, and streamed the DEA press statement from DC, here. We will cover JOH's presentment, arraignment and trial. 

The case is US v. Juan Orlando Hernandez, 15-cr-379 (Castel). 


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