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In SDNY Ashu and Eke Appear in Shackles With Lawyers Joshua In Transit From Texas

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 4 – In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York's Magistrates Court on May 31, less then 24 hours after agreeing to free alleged pedophile Bryan Pivnick while detaining a homeless man who threatened the Washington DC mayor online, Magistrate Judge James L. Cott oversaw the presentment of two defendants just in from the Northern District of Georgia, Cyril Ashu and Ifeanyi Eke. On June 4 they both appeared, in shackled, before SDNY District Judge Jesse M. Furman.

  Eke has Federal Defender Philip Weinstein; Ashu the affable CJA Marc Greenwald. In fact, third defendant on his way, how ever slowly, from Texas with the Marshals Joshua Ikejimba already has a lawyer, Todd A. Spodek of 85 Broad Street. But what about the fourth defendant, Chinedu Ironuah? All he has is a prosecutor, Jarrod L. Schaeffer. This is a case Inner City Press will continue to follow: watch this site.

Also moved from Magistrate Judge Cott on May 31 to Judge Furman on June 4 was Vladislav Zapolskij, charged in a fraud in which elderly victim sent their life savings for vintage pick up trucks and other equipment, only to receive nothing in return. Zapolskij was arrested back in November 2018 in Lithuania but has been fighting extradition since. He "self-surrendered" early on May 31 and was flown all day from Vilnius to New York.

  His CJA lawyer Louis Fasulo agreed to detention until a hearing in front of SDNY District Judge Jesse Furman. Inner City Press attended that on June 4, as the only media present, as Judge Furman in his beard asked if a Russian interpreters sufficed. In a pinch, it seemed. The lack of Lithuanian interpretation and apparently a fire drill made reaching Zapolskij not easy. Defendant's motions are due July 19; the sur-reply will be done from a remote location which Judge Furman ascribed to the benefits of modern technology. The next conference is on August 12 at 3:30 pm. Watch this site, and @SDNYLIVE.

   Last week in the hours after banker Stephen Calk was freed by Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman on $5 million bond with no co-signer, other SDNY cases continued

A dual British - US citizen living in Brooklyn but reaching out for underage sex was presented, with his wife in the courtroom by that time only with Inner City Press. Federal Defender Amy Gallichio argued that Peter Bright should be released, since his building in Brooklyn has a video surveillance system.

  But would the neighbors want the U.S. Attorney's Office to see their comings and goings? Gallichio offered for Bright to install his own camera over his door and turn the files in to the government. Judge Freeman found this of intersted and invited a second try, if only in writing. She quizzed Bright's all-American wife in the gallery and said the Peter is lucky. Was his claim to be "training" an eleven year old girl in The Bronx just puffery? Inner City Press will stay on this case.

  At 6:25 pm a defendant arrested at JFK airport on drug charges (heroin and fetanyl) appeared, with CJA lawyer de Castro and a court interpreter.

  The main issue, it seemed, was the defendant's prosthetic leg and the need for a "sock" and one that was cleaned. Judge Freedman signed an order that defendant Rivas-Marichal, dubbed "peg-leg" by one heartless Mag Court denizen, no longer by held in leg irons. The U.S. Marshals quickly obliged. And then led him away.

   Earlier at 5:30 pm a taxi driver from Astoria, Queens was in the dock along with a younger man from India whose Federal Defender sparred with the Assistant U.S. Attorney about his right to copy Defendant Malhotra's passport.

  Ultimately Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman, handling arraignments this week, told the government NOT to copy the passport, but continued detention for Malhotra unlike Calk. The taxi driver was released but can no longer use a smart phone, only some ill-defined satellite mapping system. Inner City Press will continue to follow that and this case.

  In a tale of two cases, on May 21 when Colin Akparanta was brought in shackles, accused of sexually abusing female prisoners under his control in the Metropolitan Correctional Center prison, into the SDNY Magistrates Court, his wife had been waiting for him for hours. So too his for-now publicly paid lawyer.

  A few hours before a defendant named Hunter accused of selling guns from South Carolina to an informant was processed in the same Magistrates Court, also with his wife or partner Hope Hall in the gallery. Unlike Akparnta, Farmer has no passport - and as noted in the courtroom, there are no SDNY extradition issues with South Carolina. Call it a tale of two arraignments, or presentments, whatever the term of art.

  As to Akparanta after a reading of the charges, Akparanta was offered $200,000 bail but only when others sign on to it. The U.S. Attorney's Office will go to the house he owns in Irvington, New Jersey to pick up his two guns, and then store them in a vault. His lawyer said Yes, he will be engaging in discussions about a pre-trial disposition, meaning a plea.

   The government argued for a curfew, saying that Akparanta is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Nigeria to which he retains strong ties. He didn't try to flee when first questioned - but it seems he thought he was under investigation only for bringing contraband into the MCC for female prisoners, not for the sex acts he traded the contraband and control for.

 The unsealed indictment in USA v. Akparanta lists as his nicknames or aliases "Africa" and "Akon." (A commenter on Inner City Press' thread about the arraignment noted that the singer Akon is not, in fact, from Nigeria - but neither is Africa a country.)

  Akparanta's lawyer expressed concern about where he would be detained on the night of May 21 while awaiting another signer for his bond and the retrieval of his guns. The prosecutors said he will not be in general population or even in any Bureau of Prisons facility but rather a contract one (sounds like GEO, a private prison.)

  The government asked that time be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act for discovery, which they said is voluminous even though the complaint says the sex acts took place off camera, referring to "The Bubble," and to discusss a pre-trial disposition, meaning a plea. Judge Freeman asked Akparanta's lawyer if he anticipated engaging in such discussions. Yes, was the answer. So how long, in a private prison? Inner City Press will continue to cover this case, and others.


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