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In Trial of Accused Hezbollah Helper Saab Girlfriend Redacted To Avoid Honor Killing

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Song
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - The Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 26, updated May 11 – Alexei Saab, charged with providing aid to Hezbollah, had a proceeding before  U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gardephe on June 15, 2020. Inner City Press covered it, as it did another hearing on April 7, 2021, here and below. 

  On July 15, Saab's trial was set, for January 10, 2022: "ORDER as to Alexei Saab. Subject to COVID-19 protocols, trial is scheduled for January 10, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. in Courtroom 705 of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, New York."

On March 11, a new date was announced: "ORDER as to Alexei Saab. The Court has received confirmation that a pandemic-approved courtroom will be available for the trial of this matter beginning on April 20, 2022. The Court will use a jury questionnaire as part of the jury selection process. The questionnaire will be distributed to the venire on April 20, 2022 at approximately 10:15 a.m. in the Jury Assembly room in 500 Pearl Street. The Court will distribute copies of the completed jury questionnaires to the parties that same day."

And on April 20, Inner City Press covered it, live tweeted thread here and below.

On April 25, after putting out a song, here, Inner City Press covered continued jury selection - and a Daubert / expert hearing with FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician Brian Murtaugh on the stand, thread here:

In this morning's pool of prospective jurors, to the question of legal knowledge one says he is a Mergers and Acquisitions lawyer; another works at Davis Polk law firm.

Prospective Juror 17  says her step-brother tells her he is the "chairman of the biggest law firm in the world." Judge Gardephe laughs and asks if this august position would make her biased. No.

Judge Gardephe: It's 1:15 pm, I'm giving you your lunch break and when you return we will complete the jury selectionWe'll see.

 Now with prospective jurors out of the courtroom, Judge Gardephe tells the lawyers he is not going to ask them open ended questions about 9/11, since it has nothing to do with this Hezbollah case and so many in the jury pool were traumatized by it.

Judge Gardephe: Mr. Kirton, I don't care one iota about what you think is going on his his mind, I care about what is going on in his mind. He says he can be fair despite 9/11.

 Judge Gardephe: We started with 121 or 122 jurors & we're currently down to 44. They are not mentioning 9/11. Why do you think it is in their minds? I'll be happy to give some instruction later, that nothing links Mr. Saab to 9/11, if the defense thinks it helpful

Now with prospective jurors out of the courtroom, Judge Gardephe tells the lawyers he is not going to ask them open ended questions about 9/11, since it has nothing to do with this Hezbollah case and so many in the jury pool were traumatized by it.

 Hezbollah proceedings continues: ostensible expert witness misidentifies "UN Mining Acquisition Service" (it's UN Mine Action Service)

trial day end with Alexi Saab's lawyer asking for order that his client have access to his glasses. Judge Gardephe says yes, there should be a standing order to that effect.

On April 26, in front of the jury Saab's photos of Hariri's hole and bridges were described; with jury gone a girlfriend's name was sealed to prevent honor killing. Inner City Press live tweeted here:

Judge Gardephe is asked to withhold from the jury the name of a woman Alexi Saab had a relationship with, to avoid "honor killing" in Lebanon

Judge Gardephe: The jury is  ready. Mr. Kirton [Saab's lawyer] they just want to redact her name. Why is that unacceptable? AUSA: The Special Agent could just say the name [VOLUNTARILY REDACTED BY INNER CITY PRESS]. Judge Gardephe: Mr. Kirton, it might be better for you rather than having "L.J."

 Judge Gardephe: I'm not going to monkey with the chat.If you want L.J., he'll say L.J.  Just tell me when you're going to introduce the video. Assistant US Attorney: Do you mean the Hezbollah propaganda videos? Judge Gardephe: Yes.

 Judge Gardephe: I am ordering the sealing of the transcript of this part of the proceeding which mentions her full name [which, as it happens, Inner City Press has not tweeted - but there would have been no way to know].

 Now in Hezbollah trial, after tech witnesses from Google and Microsoft, and an interpreter, an FBI Agent who works on investigating Hezbollah. AUSA: Before CT-9 squad, what did you work on?

Agent: Counter-terrorism squad. AUSA: Did you meet Alexi Saab?  Agent: Yes AUSA: Did you arrest Alexi Saab? FBI Agent: Yes. AUSA: Did you meet with him first? FBI Agent: Yes. 11 times.  AUSA: Do you see him in the courtroom? FBI Agent: Yes. He's right over there.

AUSA: When did you first interview Alexi Saab? FBI Agent: We secured an office space on Elm Street and read him his advice of rights... He told us he had been asked to do surveillance for Hezbollah: soldier check point, to avoid road-side bombs

 Now Judge Gardephe tells the jury: We are going to be referring to a woman as L.J. and not her full name, to protect her privacy.  [Not said: and to try to prevent "honor killing"]

 Afternoon session in Hezbollah trial: FBI Agent Cipriano (sp) on stand, says: I found that photo on Alexi Saab's hard drive. It is a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge. In the forefront is an associate of Mr. Saab, in a beige jacket.

 Now in Hezbollah trial, jury is shown a video of the entrance to the George Washington bridge, taken from Alexi Saab's hard drive.

Hezbollah trial: FBI Agent describes Alexi Saab getting out of a Mercedes and walking with a gun to the driver's side window of a van, pointing the gun at a man's face and pulling the trigger. The gun jammed, the agent says.

Now from Hezbollah defendant Alexi Saab's hard drive: Video filmed of Delta airlines security area. FBI Agent says Saab told him about giving a CD of these videos and photos to his handler in Lebanon.

 FBI Agent says Alexi Saab took photographs of the blast site after Harari was killed by explosion, for his personal interested. And that his 11th and last  interview with Saab was at the A/K/A Times Square Hotel.

 Now the Hezbollah trial day is over, with Alexi Saab's lawyer estimating he'll need one to three hours to cross examine this FBI agent.

 On Saturday April 23 Saab's lawyer Marton Kirton filed proposed voir dire of the remaining jurors, citing to a previously filed list of article about this case - including, in full disclosure, by Inner City Press. Kirton wrote: "The Defense proposes that the Court ask the remaining venire the following questions: 1. Whether or not you have read, seen, or heard any news accounts of this case? If yes, please detail. The Court should ask follow-up questions after the juror’s answer. Can you be fair and impartial to Mr. Saab even though you have read, seen, or heard news accounts of this case? 2. Have you ever visited any of the New York City landmarks referenced in this case? If yes, please detail. The Court should ask follow-up questions after the juror's answer. Even though you visited these New York City landmarks, can you be fair and impartial to Mr. Saab? 3. Do you, a family member, or a friend work at any New York City landmarks referenced in this case? If yes, please detail. The Court should ask follow-up questions after the juror's answer. Can you be fair and impartial to Mr. Saab even though you, a family member, or a friend work at these New York City landmarks?"  Full letter on Patreon here.

Ironically, the one of Inner City Press' (so far) 15 articles on the case cited mused, "if Saab is so connected with Hezbollah, why Nasrallah couldn't whip up a more extensive legal team." Inner City Press will stay on the case.

   Back on December 20 the US filed its motions in limine including that Hezbollah related materials on Saab's electronic device should be admitted. Then there is a redacted argument IV under III about Saab's expert.

On November 29, Saab's lawyer wrote again to Judge Gardephe, asking for an extensions because filing motions in limine would be difficult if not impossible given the number of issues outstanding. The letter attaches a transcript for the proposition that Saab has the right to fully brief any and all Section 4 CIPA issues.

On December 10, Judge Gardephe denied Saab's motions in limine and then issued this: "The application is denied. In an opinion issued today, the Court has addressed the Defendant's pretrial motions. The Court will address the Government's application pursuant to CIPA Section 4 in a separate order. As the Court stated on the record at the September 18, 2020 conference, the defense will have an opportunity to respond to that order if the defense deems it necessary. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Paul G. Gardephe on 12/10/2021)." Watch this site.

  On May 24-25, Saab's lawyer filed a technically untimely motion for bail and to declassify certain information partially disclosed to the defense.

  Annexed is an affidavit from Anthanasios Cambanis, disputing that Saab know or would have thought that the person he was allegedly ordered to shoot at was an Israeli spy. Thanassis Cambanis calls it a training exercise. Watch this site.

 Back on June 15 his lawyer said Saab, aka Rachid, has no access to law library.   

Judge Gardephe asked if the parties have been discussing resolving the case by plea.

But the talks stopped when Saab filed motions. His lawyer Marlon Kirton says remains open to resolving it, but "it's leaning more toward a trial now."  

Assistant US Attorney Jason Richman said that with his Office it's fine to provide an update in 30 days, with motion and trial schedule. He said disposition is "unlikely... Things are trending toward a trial." He mentioned the Classified Information Procedures Act, and Section 4 brief. 

Judge Gardephe said, There is a lot going on in this case. We'll give you another 30 days to take stock.

There was another status conference on September 18. Inner City Press live tweeted it:

His lawyer says Saab hasn't accessed the MCC law library since March, and no access to hard drive for discovery. 

Saab's lawyer: We are going to make a motion to dismiss the indictment. It's hard because the SDNY has not pattern jury instructions.

Judge Gardephe: He's proposing briefing through February, with a hearing on or after March 22. Is that acceptable to the US? Yes

 Deputy: Thurs, April 1?

Judge Gardephe: I don't want it the first day in April. How about April 6, 10 am? AUSA: I'm supposed to be out of town. But a colleague could do it.

Judge Gardephe: April 7,  then - hearing or oral argument. Shall we exclude time? Yes.

And on April 7, Inner City Press again covered it and live tweeted, here:

Saab's lawyer is questioning why the FBI got search warrant for immigration issues when they immediately told him, this is about Hezbollah.

 Defense: It raises questions that the [NJ Magistrate] Judge was presented with incomplete information to sign the warrant. Judge Gardephe: If there are misrepresentation in the search warrant application, they might be relevant. But I'd have to read the affidavit

Judge Gardephe: I'm in chambers, let me see if I can find my calendar. Four weeks to file- how about a hearing on defendant's motions on June 21, 10:30 am? I hope we can do it in person. Adjourned.

The case is US v. Saab, 19-cr-676 (Gardephe).


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