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SDNY Grand Jury Probe of 2017-20 Had Balde Dismissal Bid Denied Then Mistrial Now Motions

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

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 1 – On a legal call designed to give defense counsel information about White Plains grand juries in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, live tweeted by Inner City Press, it emerged that a grand jury has "met" in the SDNY in Manhattan in the last week.

Apparently, some grand jurors participated by video.

 This seems noteworthy, given for example that in March allowing a single juror in the US v. Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad trial to deliberate by video required the defendant's consent. Why not this? Below is the blow by blow, then background on one of the underlying cases, US v. Balde (there is also US v. Schulte, and other cases).

 On August 27, in the lead Balde case, "Defendant did not receive the expected production from the Jury Administrator."

  On May 17, 2021, Judge Failla held a proceeding in Balde, and Inner City Press covered it. It was to read out loud her decision, which was to deny Balde's motion to dismiss back on the use of the White Plains grand jury.

She called it a serious question, but noted for example a decision from the Northern District of New York, that it was OK to move a trial for a crime in Syracuse to less diverse Utica.

She said there is no right to a grand jury in the division of the SDNY a crime in committed in, and that COVID meant these was no prosecutorial gamesmanship. She mentioned Shulte, Tagliaferro and other cases.

Now on June 3, a US v. Balde trial date has been set: "ORDER as to Souleymane Balde: It is hereby ORDERED that the following trial schedule will be in effect as to Defendant Souleymane Balde, subject to courtroom availability."

On January 26, 2022, with one of Balde's Federal Defenders appointed as an SDNY Magistrate Judge so another another the case, the Federal Defenders filed motions in limine to, among other things, preclude the US from using emails and calls Balde made and sent from jail, citing spousal privilege and the presumption of innocence. 

 On February 17 Judge Failla held another proceeding, and Inner City Press again covered it. Judge Failla said she was focused on the case, as the (SEC) trial she had been presiding over had and the day before (Inner City Press covered that too, here.). Judge Failla said this US v. Balde case is on.

But: "Defendant's motion for a mistrial is GRANTED; trial is concluded and jury dismissed. By 2/28/2022, the parties shall submit a joint letter with a proposed briefing schedule."

On March 1 the briefing schedule was docketed: "ORDER as to Souleymane Balde: On February 24, 2022, the Court granted Defendant Souleymane Balde's motion for a mistrial and ordered the parties to submit a proposed briefing schedule for Mr. Balde's anticipated motion following the mistrial. (See Minute Entry for February 24, 2022). The Court now adopts the parties' proposed briefing schedule, which was submitted to the Court earlier today. Mr. Balde shall file his motion on or before March 7, 2022, and the Government shall file its response on or before March 14, 2022. SO ORDERED." Here's hoping that the next trial, if there are still COVID procotols or even if there are not, have a public call-in line. Inner City Press will continue to cover the case.

  After an earlier proceeding, this was filed: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Katherine Polk Failla: Telephone Conference as to Souleymane Balde held on 6/30/2020. Defendant Souleymane Balde's presence waived; Attorney Jennifer Willis representing Defendant present. AUSAs Kiersten Fletcher, Mary Christine Slavik and Thomas McKay present. Court reporter Pamela Utter present. Thomas Burnett, Nick Chiuchiolo, Peter Davis, Sid Kamaraju, Lindsey Keenan, Sarah Kushner, Tom McKay, Daniel Nessim, Josiah Pertz, Andrew Rohrbach, Thomas Wright, Annalisa Miron, Ariel Werner, Christopher Flood, David Patton, Robert Baum, Edward Zas, Jonathan Marvinny, Donna Newman, Sabrina Shroff, Bobbi Sternheim, Michael Bachrach, Ken Montgomery, Counsel in the following cases, also present: 20 Cr. 288(LJL), 20 Cr. 293(LJL), 20 Cr. 286(WHP), 17 Cr. 548(PAC), 20 Cr. 301(PKC), 20 Cr. 300(PAC), 20 Cr. 303(RMB), 20 Cr. 294(PKC), 20 Cr. 292(PKC), 20 Cr. 304(AJN). Jury Administrator Linda Thomas and Counsel to the Clerk of Court Robert Rogers present. By 7/14/20, and after consultation with the expert, other defense counsel and the government, Ms. Willis hall file a letter in the Balde case, with defendant's request for records." We will have more on this.

  The case is now US v. Balde, 20-cr-281 (Failla).


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