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After US Attorney Dropped Guilty Verdicts on Iran Banker Now Report on Preventing Abuse

By Matthew Russell Lee, Thread, Patreon Song

SDNY COURTHOUSE, August 17  – Iranian banker Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad has been on trial, charged with money laundering and violating US sanctions including through a Venezuelan infrastructure project.

  On March 16, 2020 after an unprecedented decision to proceed with ten jurors in the jury room and an eleventh at home, deliberating by video conference or FaceTime, he was found guilty on most charges. Live tweeted thread here.

 Late on Friday, June 5, 2020 this news dump: "Re: United States v. Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejadin, 18 Cr. 224 (AJN)  Dear Judge Nathan: The Government respectfully submits the enclosed application for an order of nolle prosequi of the Indictments filed in this case against Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejadin (“Sadr”) and Bahram Karimi. Respectfully submitted, /s/ GEOFFREY S. BERMAN  United States Attorney"

 Then on July 17, Judge Nathan issued an Order here,  followed on September 16 a 42-page order dissecting US Attorney's Office misdeeds.

 Many of the Us Attorney's Office's responses have been under seal. So on October 30, 2020 Inner City Press filed a timely application to intervene and unseal, below (and now docketed).

  Now on August 17, 2021, the US Attorney's Office has filed a 6 page letter by John M. McEnany with Judge Nathan about steps taken to prevent improper use of information loaded into the BIDMAS system." (BIDMAS is "The Bureau Investigative Document Management and Analysis System").

  The US Attorney's Office writes, not surprisingly, that "The BIDMAS Audit's analysis supports the conclusion that BIDMAS is not a vehicle for misuse of search warrant materials." It makes recommendations including "expanding the BIDMAS review trail to indicate whether a document identified by a search was in fact opened by the searcher." Then: "We make no complacent assumption that this will eliminate all mistakes and errors of judgment." Watch this site.

From Inner City Press' October 30, 2020 filing: "the irregularities in the U.S. Attorney's Office's disclosure and other practices in this case - and in other cases Inner City Press is covering in the SDNY, some cited below - militate against shield these judicial documents and those government employees involved from public scrutiny and accountability.  

  In response to your September 16 order, the US Attorney's Office submitted some 1,400 pages on a disk, all under seal. On October 23 redacted cover letter(s) appeared in the docket, with lines like "maintain under seal a letter [REDACTED]," and "based on the existing sealing Order in this case related to [REDACTED.]"     

 Another cover email, referencing the submission of a "disk with the exhibits and other responsive communications" merely states, without argument, that it is a "request that these materials be filed under seal." 

 As the Court surely knows, similar issues have arisen in US v. Ahuja and Shor and numerous other, lower profile cases. As simply one recent (Oct 28) example, it emerged in 19-cr-144 (AHK) that the US Attorney's Office withheld six terabytes of discovery until 17 months into that case, after one of the defendants pled guilty.   

Only yesterday, October 29, a superseding indictment of a UN staff charged with drugging and raping victims in Iraq and in the US was docketed on delay, including the arrest and presentment being disclosed only after it had happened, in    US v. Elkorany, 20-cr-437 (NRB).   

  As the Court is aware, the public and the press have a presumptive First Amendment and common law right of access to criminal proceedings and records. See Press Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501, 508 (1984). The presumption of openness can only be overcome if “specific, on the record findings are made demonstrating that closure is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” Press–Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court, 478 U.S. 1, 13-14 (1986)  Non-parties such as Inner City Press and myself have standing to intervene in criminal proceedings to assert the public’s right of access. United States v. Aref, 533 F.3d 72, 81 (2d Cir. 2008)...

  Inner City Press is a proper intervenor, which has covered the underlying case, see, e.g.,  on the late day of trial, this.

  Here, the requested sealing(s) and withholdings go entirety go beyond those requested even in the CIA trial before Judge Crotty, US v. Schulte, 17 Cr. 548.       In that case, Inner City Press vindicated the public's right to know, in the docket, see this

 Inner City Press after that got even more sensitive filings unsealed in a North Korea sanctions case before Judge Castel, US v. Griffith, 20-cr-15 (PKC), Docket No. 33 (LETTER by EMAIL as to Virgil Griffith addressed to Judge P. Kevin Castel from Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press, dated 5/18/2020, re: Press Access to documents in US v. Griffith, 20-cr-15), 40 (order to unseal) and 41 unsealed filings). See also Inner City Press' May 9, 2020, filing to this Court for openness in US v. Randall, 19-cr-131,  No. 343.     And see Judge Furman's Order in US v. Avenatti, 19-cr-374, docket no. 85, granting application, here. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that reporting by the news media allows members of the public to monitor the criminal justice system without attending proceedings in person. Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v Virginia, 448 U.S. at 572-73  (1980). By attending and reporting on court proceedings, members of the press "function[] as surrogates for the public." Id. at 573.    A motion to intervene is the appropriate device to assert the right of access, the Second Circuit has recognized for example in US v. King, 140 F.3d 76, 78 (2d Cir. 1998).     The documents including electronic documents at issue here should not be sealed and should be made available, forthwith. ("Each passing day [that access is denied] may constitute a separate and cognizable infringement of the 1st Amendment," Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 580 (1976)).  Please confirm receipt & docket this timely responsive filing, making Inner City Press an Interested Party. Thank you. Respectfully submitted,  /s/  Matthew Russell Lee, Esq., Inner City Press

Back in March: Judge Nathan: "The jury has reached a verdict.... The juror on video conference will stay on until he hears from me further." Jury entering! Judge Nathan: "I'll ask the foreperson. Has the jury asked a unanimous verdict?" Yes.

 Judge Nathan: Count 1, how do you find the defendant, with conspiring to defraud the US? Guilty. Count 2: Guilty.

Judge Nathan (after sidebar) "On Count 3, bank fraud, how do you find? Guilty. Under 1344, prong 1, neither (?) Count 4: bank fraud conspiracy:  Under 1344, prong 1, neither (?) Under 1344, prong 2, guilty

Judge Nathan: Count 5: Guilty. Count 6, money laundering conspiracy: Not guilty. Now polling jurors: one? 2? [soon the virtual juror] Let me confirm the verdict with Juror Number 7... I have confirmed it is his verdict. I will dismiss the jury.

  After Judge Nathan had declined to sent Sadr to jail pending sentencing but instead converted him to home detention, Inner City Press rushed out to do a Periscope video live stream (here) and try to ask Sadr a question. His lawyers left in a yellow cab, then he left. Inner City Press asked, Are you going to appeal? He answered softly, Of course. Then he too got in a yellow cab.

  On March 16 amid the Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, jury deliberations ran into a problem. SDNY Judge Nathan proposed proceeding with ten jurors in the jury room and one connected from outside by video.

 Assistant US Attorney Michael Krause objected. But Judge Nathan said there are extraordinary circumstances and she would proceed thusly. Inner City Press live tweeted it all: thread here. More on Patreon here.

Ali Sadr is represented by lawyer Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson and, on November 25 as reported by Inner City Press by Brian M. Heberlig before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alison J. Nathan.

  On Sunday, March 8 [alongside this song] the US Attorney Office which closed its case on March 9 past 9 pm submitted a letter, below.

 On March 12 in closing arguments, this happened:  As jury charge continues: Judge Nathan has just deployed the old saw about circumstantial evidence, that if people come into a windowless courtroom with wet umbrella, jurors are free to conclude it is raining outside. 

But what about Iran sanctions?

AUSA Krause: The defendant knew what he was doing violated US sanctions against Iran. The defendant is charged with six felonies. Mohammad Sadr was the beneficiary of the payments. ...

It's good to have money, in essence. This is not how lower income defendants are often treated in the SDNY. The case is USA v. Nejad,  18-cr-00224 (Nathan). More on Patreon here



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