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US Marshals Took Month Flying Raji for SDNY Trial now Conscious Avoidance Loss in Charge

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 15 – Mustapha Raji was indicted for wire fraud in December 2019 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The indictment stated that Raji "received, and aided and abetted the receipt of, approximately $1.7 million in proceeds of a fraud scheme via a wire transfer from a bank in New York to a bank accounts in Florida controlled by a co-conspirator."  

Raji was arrested on December 20, 2019 in Miami. But it took 35 days for him to arrive in New York.  

On January 22, 2020 Assistant US Attorney Dina McLeod wrote to assigned Judge Jesse M. Furman asking that time be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act. Judge Furman in a January 23 Order On Letter Motion that is not in PACER requested an explanation for the delay in transporting Raji to the SDNY.  

 Then: on March 19, 2021 Raji's appointed counsel Jeremy Schneider wrote to Judge Furman for approve to hire Dylan Schneider as a paralegal, to be paid under the Criminal Justice Act. By footnote: "Out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of full transparency, Dylan and I share the same last name because he is my son."

 On March 22, 2021 Judge Furman said no: "The Court appreciates counsel's disclosure of the relationship and has no reason to doubt counsel's (or his son's) good faith, but concludes that, at least in these circumstances (namely, where the services do not require particular expertise and there is no strong argument for the appointment of the particular person) it is not appropriate to use CJA funds to pay the relative of counsel applying for funds. Accordingly, the request is denied without prejudice to a new application for someone other than counsel's son."

On March 10, 2022: "Re Request to postpone trial date due to scheduling conflict as to Mustapha Raji: Application GRANTED (without happiness). Trial is ADJOURNED to September 12, 2022. Time is excluded under the Speedy Trial Act between today and September 12, 2022, to ensure continuity of counsel and allow the parties to prepare for trial. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate ECF No. 75. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Jesse M. Furman on 3/10/2022)."

  But on July 22 Schneider wrote to Judge Furman requesting a conference to discuss Mr. Raji's health condition. It was held on July 26 and Inner City Press covered it. Schneider described health problems; Judge Furman indicated that a doctor's note would be required, and wondered what difference a month wuold make. Two days later on the evening of July 28, no doctors letter, or summary of the July 26 proceeding, yet in the docket.

On September 1, 2022, the US opposed Raji's last ditch request to delay the trial, citing US v. Gambino, 2d Cir 1995 for the proposition that "the public is the loser when a criminal trial is not prosecuted expeditiously."

On September 2, Judge Furman agreed -- no delay: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT terminating [93] LETTER MOTION re: [93] LETTER MOTION addressed to Judge Jesse M. Furman from Jeremy Schneider dated August 31, 2022 re: Request to Adjourn Trial....ENDORSEMENT...The Court wholeheartedly agrees with the Government. The fact that the medical letter submitted on behalf of the Defendant comes from a self-described "walk-in clinic to treat a minor illness or injury" casts additional doubt on the need for the adjournment. The parties should be prepared to address at the final pretrial conference what accommodations, if any, the Defendant should be given during trial. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate ECF No. 93. (Signed by Judge Jesse M. Furman on 9/2/22)."

 The final pre-trial conference was set for September 7 at 11 am. Inner City Press went to cover it. But Raji was not there, not at 11:10 nor 11:20. Judge Furman asked why; Schneider said Raji had taken the N train but missed the Canal Street station and rode into Brooklyn.

Then he turned around and missed Canal again, riding up to 34th Street. Judge Furman suggested that a taxi or Uber might be better.

When Raji arrived on the 11th floor of 40 Foley Square at 11:45 am, Inner City Press was waiting out by the elevators. Raji, in a pink shirt and glasses, asked, "Where is courtroom 1105?" Inner City Press showed up, and followed him in.

 Judge Furman told him that he was close be being remanded, and that it would happen if he is late during the trial starting Monday. Prior act evidence will be coming in; Raji, it emerged, turned down an offer of a plea to a single conspiracy count with a guideline sentence of 51-63 months. He is rolling the dice.

On September 15, after the evidence was in, Raji waived his presence at the charging conference. Inner City Press went, to cover both sides' objections to the charge. Several of the AUSAs points were adopted, with Raji's lawyer acknowledging the new language was not legally inaccurate. Judge Furman grant some of Raji's objections, but not the big ones, on conscious avoidance. The closing arguments are set for September 19. Watch this site.

 Back on January 27, 2020 AUSA McLeod replied that back on January 7, the US Marshals Service entered a removal request into the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, JPATS.   

She wrote, "In order to be cost effective, the USMS routes inmates through central hubs, rather than flying each inmate from his or her original location to his or her destination. JPATS indicated that the first flight available to the defendant from Miami to Oklahoma City (one of the USMS hubs) was on January 22, 2020. JPATS also indicated that the next flight available to the defendant from Oklahoma City to the SDNY was scheduled for February 4, 2020. According to the USMS, this route was chosen because it was the most direct route between the defendant's starting location and the SDNY."  

Inner City Press was present in the SDNY Magistrates Court when Mustapha Raji was finally presented before SDNY Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn on February 5, @SDNYLIVE tweet here. He was detained on consent, set to finally appear before Judge Furman on February 7. The case is US v. Raji, 19-cr-870 (Furman / Netburn). 


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