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In SDNY Delay Due To Dominican Extradition Unexplained While Tranparency Cited in Michael Cohen Case

By Matthew Russell Lee

FEDERAL COURTHOUSE, February 7 – In the same Southern District of New York Federal courthouse where Judge William Pauley on February 7 ordered search warrant documents in the Michael Cohen case released in part, to allow public oversight of the judiciary, another case with almost no public paperwork came to an end with a single journalist in the courtroom.

  After serving four years in prison due to delays in extradicting a co-conspirator from the Dominican Republic, Juan Antonio Rosario-Acosta was sentenced to time serviced and made to pay $400 in special assessments and $100 in restitution, to the IRS. (Rosario-Acosta was charged in 2011 with stealing US Treasury checks.)

 Chief Judge Colleen McMahon, who asked Rosario-Acosta in Spanish the ages of this children, said honestly that about the cause of the delay, "I suppose I should be curious but I'll pass." The $100 restitution came up only at the end, raised by Prosecutor Daniel C. Richenthal, whom we've previously covered in the UN bribery cases of Ng Lap Seng and Patrick Ho, and more recently the case of alleged FinCen leaker Natalie Edwards. Richenthal has been on the Rosario-Acosta case all the way back to 2011, in USA v. Rosario-Acosta a/k/a Jason Perez, 11-cr-00919-CM.

  This Rosario-Acosta (or Jason Perez) endgame was quiet, with the defendant's cousin and the mother of his children present. Reference was made to a letter submitted by his mother and that, other than Judge McMahon's 2015 modication of bail, is one of the few documents in the Pacer file. It is simple, and heartfelt: her son had to start working at a young age to help support the family; he made a mistake; he should be forgiven and allowed to raise his children. And so, it seems, it shall be.

As if in another world, but the same courthouse, two months after Michael Cohen received a three year sentence in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, on February 7 Judge William H. Pauley III issued an order on how much information gathered during the investigation should be made public.

  While much of the interest is in Cohen and, behind him, President Donald Trump, Pauley's order addresses the need for public oversight of Federal authorities including judges. From the SDNY decision in U.S. v. Cohen, 18-cr-00602: "the presumption of access is at its core tethered to the need for public monitoring of the federal courts and their exercise of judicial power. Cf. SEC v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d 845, 847 (5th Cir. 1993) (explaining that “[t]he public’s right to information does not protect the same interests that the right of access is designed to protect”). As the Second Circuit explained, Monitoring both provides judges with critical views of their work and deters arbitrary judicial behavior. Without monitoring, moreover, the public could have no confidence in the conscientiousness, reasonableness, or honesty of judicial proceedings. Such monitoring is not possible without access to testimony and documents that are used in the performance of Article III functions. Amodeo II, 71 F.3d at 1050." While a fine basis, this would militate not only for the release of search warrant records but more transparency and accessibilty day to day in the courts, something lacking even the day before in the presentment of Afghan national Haji Abdul Sattar Barakzai a/k/a Manaf for allegedly supporting the Taliban with heroin imports and sales, click here for that, and later on February 7 in the presentment of an online gaming alleged fraudster. The lack of public explanation for the delays in the case Mr. Rosario-Acosta is another example.

   Judge Pauley's February 7 order provides, "The Government is directed to submit a sealed, ex parte copy of the Materials by February 28, 2019 with proposed redactions in highlights consistent with this Opinion & Order. After reviewing the proposed redactions, this Court will direct the Government to file the redacted Materials on the public docket in this action."

   Previously from outside the Court in the Cohen case on December 12 surrounded by a sea of cameras and tripods, Inner City Press live-streamed: see Periscope broadcasts here and here. A week before that in Courtroom 12A there was a guilty verdict in the UN bribery trial...

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