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In SDNY Defense Counsel Withdraws Based On Jailhouse Conversation CJA Form Has AUSA Name On It

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 24 – A man who had pled guilty to maritime drug trafficking and whose first language is Albanian had his lawyer withdraw from representing him on April 24 but quickly got another free lawyer in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York courtroom of SDNY Judge Andrew L. Carter. Leom Kolmnema's arrival from the MCC was delayed, during which time his withdrawing lawyer told Judge Carter's deputy that no interpreter was needed, his client has been in jail so long he has learned good English.

 The reason for withdrawal is only barely alluded to in public: "I recently learned of facts that occurred after the plea that make it impossible for me represent this defendant any longer. These facts arose from the fact that I am also the attorney for one of Mr. Kolmnela’s former cellmates and certain things that the defendant in this case has told me. While the Government is aware of most of the facts to which I am obliquely referring, I cannot enumerate the details in this filing without harming my client’s interests. Should the Court require it, I could provide Your Honor with more detail in an ex parte letter or in an ex parte conference. The defendant also informs me that he does not now have the assets with which to retain counsel. The defendant has previously completed a CJA Form and had appointed counsel. But I will have the defendant complete a new up-to-date form and perhaps the substitution might occur at a conference."

  The withdrawal and replace did take place on April 24, but only after Judge Carter astutely noted that it appeared that the Assistant U.S. Attorney on the case appeared to have signed Kolmnema's financial affidavit. (There is, it emerged, a house in California). The AUSA quickly said for the record that he had not signed it, that he is not permitted to look at the finances of the people he prosecutes. Index number and more on Patreon, here. We'll have more on this.

  The day before on April 23, a man was denied bail on April 23 after naming his Instagram account "Catch Me If You Can." It in the SDNY arraignments courtroom, presided over by this week by retiring Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman. A Mister Crowder, wearing a "World Sacrifice Tour" t-shirt, was requesting bail. But Judge Pitman asked about the naming of his Instagram account, and the two excuses given, that it was named after a Leo DiCaprio movie ("I've seen it," Judge Pitman said) and that he later changed "if you can" to "if you could," were unavailing. The marshals took him back into the cell block Judge Pitman said to close the door to, less than an hour before affluent opioids distributor Laurence Doud was released on $500,000 bail and walked with his lawyer Mister Gottlieb across Foley Square with Inner City Press asking questions, Periscope video here. We'll have more on this.

Back on April 18 a defendant pled guilty to selling marijuana and having a gun in Manhattan, to a plea agreement specifying 37 to 46 months. Magistrate Judge Moses asked the defendant if he had written his allocation himself. Sporting an ACE bandage on his right wrist, he said Yes. Moments later a Mr. Butler, with neck tattoo, stepping up with a financial affidavit and a lawyer, to be appointed as he is a material witness. So you work construction? Judge Moses asked. The answer was yes, and that it was seasonal - he was not going to work tonight because it was going to pour rain. Judge Moses asked, Is it? And by 6 pm, there was still no rain. But her week was over, and not uninteresting, including disputes with both the Federal Defenders and, less so, with the government. We will continue to cover this.

A defendant accused in New York courts of attempted murder but released because not indicted in six days was denied bail on April 17 by SDNY Magistrate Judge Moses  after a contentious 5 p.m. proceeding with Inner City Press the only media present. The Federal Defender argued that the NY ADA's inability to indict within the six day time frame of NY CPLR 3030 meant there really is no evidence. The Federal Assistant U.S. Attorney said she had called her state counterpart who assured they are investigating. Federal Magistrate Judge Moses said she would not credit anything not actually before the court - but that attempted murder sounds serious. The defendant is being remanded and held, it seems, until a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Keenan. Inner City Press will cover that as well.

The day before on April 16 a  strange proceeding took place in which a material witness was assigned a free lawyer by SDNY Magistrate Judge Moses. His financial affidavit had to be updated - as it turned out, because he was paying his taxes. Then Judge Moses accepted it and assigned him a lawyer and he disappeared. No index number was read out, and his name to Inner City Press the only media present sounded like Teepee. They acted like it was a private proceeding, like the visits by Assistant US Attorneys and FBI agents through the fire door to see the week's Magistrate judge. But these are public proceedings, until they are not. Inner City Press will have more on this.... A Dominican defendant charged with fentanyl was the last case on April 16 SDNY Magistrate's Court. There was more preamble that usual, as the Assistant U.S. Attorney asked the FBI if they had the defendant's wallet - they did - and if it contained his Green Card. It did, but there still a dispute of whether this was the same defendant who pled guilty to narcotics felony in 2009. It is a common name: Juan Pablo de la Cruz Mendoza. And for that reason, apparently, the defendant will spend at least until Monday, April 22 in the MCC. Inner City Press, the only media present in the presentment, wondered why the issue of his green card, uncontested by the government, became entwined with this doppelganger's plea. The person present on April 16 said audible, in Spanish, that he makes only $500 a week, and sends $100 to a daughter in Santo Domingo. He has four children. It was like observing in an operating room when the surgeons don't know what to do. Delay it until Monday was the decision. Inner City Press will be there.

Back on April 9 a defendant pleading guilty to entering the U.S. after a prior deportation for drugs asked for an expedited sentencing, and presumably second deportation to the Dominican Republic in the SDNY, before Judge Deborah Batts. But Judge Batts declined to give earlier dates, saying that the Probation Department is understaffed and underfunded. Defendant Daniel Francisco Portes' lawyer told the court and his client's family that he will nonetheless ask Probation to expedite things. Judge Batts said she will wants the parties to comment on the draft pre-sentencing report. It was a moment in an ongoing social debate, in a large courtroom with only one media present: Inner City Press. We'll continue to follow this case - but not this one: Abdul Odige's criminal case began in 2004 but on April 9 his supervision was removed. He has passed his marijuana tests; he has gotten a job in health care. He was arrested for driving with a suspended lisence - but it was for a fine he didn't know he owed. Probation spoke up for him, and even the Assist US Attorney. And so it was over, a too rare positive story. The case is, or was, US v. Odige, 04 Cr. 196 (DAB)....

  A defendant brought before SDNY Judge Paul Crotty on March 27 wanted to change lawyers. Then he told Judge Crotty that his outgoing lawyer had taken his Honduran passport and ID and he wanted it returned. The matter was not resolved on the record; the lawyer being relieved, seeing Inner City Press with a reporter's notebook, came over and asked, Why are you covering this? Well, there is an absolute right to cover the courts. And when the allegation is that legal identity documents are taken and not returned, it should be pursued. To belatedly answer the inappropriate question of the lawyer being replaced, who after Inner City Press' answer of "Here I am" went and whispered with the judge, there was a break in the jury instructions in a case elsewhere in the courthouse that Inner City Press is covering. But really there is no need for the press or public to answer. Rather, where are the documents?

 Back on March 8, another shooting in The Bronx in October 2018 was the subject of an ill-attended conference in the SDNY. Jerome Jackson is described as in a white t-shirt with silver handgun on 2 October 2018 on Freeman Street - but in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Kevin Castel he was in jail house blues and shackles. His lawyer Julia Gatto questioned whether the NYPD detectives who questioned Jackson about the shooting were in fact part of a joint task force with the Feds - no, Karin Potlock for the government said, and on that basis no suppression - and questioned probable cause. There will be a hearing on that on April Fools Day and Inner City Press aims to be there. The case is US v. Jackson, 18 CR 760. A week before on March 1 when Statue of Liberty climber Patricia Okoumou appeared in the SDNY , it was to face revocation of bail for more recent climbs, all to protest the separation of immigrant families. SDNY Judge Gorenstein did not revoke bail but imposed house arrest. He jibed that it appeared Ms. Okoumou could only support herself by donations garnered by climbing. Afterward Inner City Press asked her lawyer Ron Kuby about this argument. He said the judge has it precisely wrong, or in reverse: she raised money because she is an activist, she is not an actively in order to make money. Ms. Okoumou raised her fist, and headed to Staten Island. Photos here. Inner City Press, which interviewed Okoumou on December 5 just after another SDNY decision, in the Patrick Ho / CEFC China Energy UN bribery case, headed out and streamed this Periscope, and this Q&A, with more to come, on this case and others. How guns eject shell casings was the subject of expert testimony in a Bronx gang trial on February 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before Judge Robert W. Sweet, an ATF agent traced a bullet back to Illinois; under cross examination he said a shell casing might eject feet rather than yards unless it bounced on something. Then testimony went back to 2007, a 14-year old with a gun heading from the Millbrook projects to the Mitchell Houses. The defense asked for a mistrial when the name of a second gang was introduced; the prosecution shot back (so to speak) that it came from photos on the defendant's own Facebook page. And so it goes in trials these days. Back on February 25 a prison sentence of life plus five years was imposed for a Bronx murder by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon on February 25. She presided over the trial in which Stiven Siri-Reynoso was convicted of, among other things, murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Jessica White, a 28 year old mother of three, in the Bronx in 2016. Jessica White's mother was in the court room; she was greeted by Judge McMahon but declined to speak before sentencing. Siri-Reynoso was representing himself by this point, with a back-up counsel by his side. Judge McMahon told him, "You're a very smart man... a tough guy, a calculating person... You are a coward, sent a child to do it for you... Your emissary shot the wrong person, a lovely lady... It was a vicious, evil attack against the good people of that neighborhood." When she imposed the life plus five sentence, a woman on the Jessica White side of the courtroom cried out, yes Ma'am, put the animal away! Later, after Siri-Reynoso ended asking how he can get more documents about the case, a woman on his side of the courtroom said, "No te preocupes, muchacho, Dios sabe lo que hace" - don't worry, God knows what he is doing. But does He? Earlier on February 25 when the government tried to defend its 2018 change of policy or practice on Special Immigrant Juvenile status in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl had many questions about the change. He asked, are you saying that all the decisions before 2018 were just wrong, under a policy in place but not implemented at the time? In the overflow courtroom 15C the largely young audience laughed, as the government lawyer tried to say it wasn't a change of policy but rather an agency interpretation of the statute. Shouldn't there have been notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act? The government said the argument proffered for this was about the Freedom of Information Act (on which, as Inner City Press has noted, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has similarly reversed its policy 180 degrees without justification). SDNY Judge Koeltl demanded t know if the government is arguing that no juvenile court in New York, California (and maybe Texas for other reasons he said) is empowered to grant relief. The answer was far from clear - but where the ruling is going does seem so. Watch this site. The Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press has requested records relating to the Fed's role with response due in 20 working days - watch this site. In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money...

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.


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