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In SDNY Defendant Rodriguez Arrested at JFK on Fentanyl Charges Gets Bail Package With 20 Year Old Form

By Matthew Russell Lee

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 5 – In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York's Magistrates Court on June 5, a defendant called (phonetically) Joel Rodriguez was presented on fentanyl charges and was approved for release on bond. Rodriguez' Federal Defender lawyer apologized for using what SDNY Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein called "a twenty year old CJA form."

  Still despite the drugs, which led to his arrest at JFK Airport at 11:45 pm the previous night, the government and Federal Defenders agreed on a bail package and Judge Gorenstein rubber stamped it. Only, neither the agreement nor even the case number was available.

Earlier on June 5 a shackled defendant known as Mister Booth asked to be released on bond so that he could have physical therapy on June 8 for a gunshot wound.

  Then the Assistant U.S. Attorney told Magistrate Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein that Mr. Booth is in fact a suspect in a shooting related to the physical therapy he seeks. The AUSA said Booth has pending New York State cases including for dislocating his own daughter's shoulder. Judge Gorenstein said none of this was in the Probation Department's report; he remanded Booth and ordered Geoffrey Berman's office to come up with more information.

  Inner City Press, the only media in the Mag Court and still without access to the underlying case numbers or even full names, will have more on this. The information is clearly available: Judge Gorenstein said to his Deputy in open court, What does tomorrow's calendar look like? Why aren't those calendars public? See @SDNYLIVE.

Back 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 a defendant just flown in from Lithuania.

 It 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 agreed to detention at least until a hearing in front of SDNY District Judge Jesse Furman on June 4, 15 minutes after Judge Furman is to see the homeless DC threat Ogun. Inner City Press aims to be there - 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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