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In SDNY Kai Wu For Selling Drugs On Dark Web Gets 3 Years Probation and Sealed Transcript

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 30 – When Kai Wu came to be sentenced for conspiracy to distribute 50 kilograms of drugs on the Dark Web on May 30, the sentencing guidelines provided for 70 to 87 months imprisonment. He ended up with three years of probation with the sentencing transcript ordered sealed by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Lorna G. Schofield. It was in open court, however, and Inner City Press was there, as the only media present. With all due respect these things should be reported.

  While Inner City Press witnessed, and criticized, a Bronx mother getting seven years in jail for moving drugs in her car, the main reason for Kai Wu's "non incarceratory" sentence seems to be that he helped the government recover $8500 in Bitcoin. Is that all it takes? Where is the consistency between these sentences, and the transparency?

  The Assistant US Attorneys on the case, who redacted near the conclusion and footnote 2 of their sentencing submission, were Matthew Hellman and Jacob Warren. The CJA lawyer who made the request to seal the transcript was listed as Duncan P. Levin. It was repeatedly said that Kai Wu will lose his DACA status and faced deportation, whether the China or the SAR of Hong Kong it is not clear. This amid reports of possible requests to send convicted UN briber Patrick Ho back there from U.S. prison. We'll  have more on this.

  In July 2018 the US indicted Sebastian Baez and Johan Garcia-Sosa for cocaine trafficking. Later they added Adan Perez-Rosso to the case.

  With Baez already sentenced to 33 months in prison and Garcia-Sosa also pleading guilty, Perez-Rosso was to appear at noon on May 29 before SDNY  Judge P. Kevin Castel.

  But there, a strange thing happened. After a guilty plea to multiple counts and to a forfeiture allegation, Judge Castel said he would not be ordering a pre-sentencing report yet. He named only a sentencing "control date." Then the government and the defense both requested that the proceeding, which occurred in open court, be sealed. How is that possible? We'll have more on this.

This is a pattern. Back on May 20 when Frederick Lee Burgos came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 100 to 125 months in prison, and an additional 120 month mandatory minimum, as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx.

After a proceeding in which his Jenner & Block lawyer asked Inner City Press why it was in the courtroom, what it's interest is, Burgos received a sentence of time served. Then there was an order to seal the transcript of the proceeding.

This was in the courtroom of SDNY Judge Gregory Woods, who has imposed other sentences in the wider USA v. Palermo et al. case. On April 15 Inner City Press covered the sentencing of another members of the conspiracy, Felix Cordero Senior, also described as low level but who did not cooperate, to 120 months: ten years.

  If the goal is to send the message the the U.S. Attorney's Office will minimize the gun-play and crack sales of cooperators, why seal the transcript? Why try to pressure the Press to leave the courtroom, or to not report on it?

  The rationale appears to be that the cooperator is at risk. (Judge Woods gave weight to the fact that Burgos choose to remain at risk in the MDC in general population in order to see his son, rather than by moved to "GEO" further away.) But the Assistant U.S. Attorney said that Burgos' cooperation had been disclosed to co-defendant Ramirez, or at least to his lawyer. Was that under a confidentiality agreement? Is this any way to do justice?

  Earlier this year SDNY Magistrate Justice Ona T. Wang issued an oral order that the press covering her bench trial of Ivan Nieves, a defendant who wrote racist graffiti on a sign at the the nearby African Burial Ground should not publish the defendant's address in The Bronx, which had been said in open court. Judge Wang later in the day acknowledged this was or would be prior restraint but asked that the address not be published. Inner City Press voluntarily complied.

  Here, other than the pointed inquiry from the Jenner and Block lawyer, no such request was made (although Judge Woods and his genial courtroom Deputy did confer, perhaps on this topic). As in the case before Judge Wang, Inner City Press is voluntarily self-censoring. But is this any way to run a public proceeding?

  We'll have more on this - there is another Palermo sentencing set for later this month, and the sentencing submission of Palermo himself has just been filed, publicly, in the docket. Burgos' filing is nowhere to be seen. How much is missing? More on Patreon, here. Watch this site.

   In the same Palermo conspiracy, on April 15 when Felix Cordero Sr came up for sentencing he faced a guideline sentence of 120 to 150 months in prison as part of a gang that sold crack in Hunts Point in The Bronx. In the courtroom of U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory Woods there were only the judge and his deputy, a court report, a lone Assistant US Attorney and defense lawyer, Cordero, two U.S. Marshals - and Inner City Press. The tale that emerged what that Cordero Senior was previously imprisoned for conspiracy to commit murder, then for trying to sneak heroin into jail, then for fleeing the halfway house to which he was assigned. He then moved back to Hunts Point to work for a gang run by his own son Miguel Ramirez. In a reversal, Felix Senior took phone calls for his son, including inquiries into whether his son had guns for sale. Later Felix Senior was in a car with a Mr. Alicea, less than 18 years old at the time, fleeing the police. Alicea threw drugs and a gun out of the moving car.

 Judge Woods went through this history in detail before sentencing Cordero Senior to 120 months. His lawyer asked that he be assigned to the same prison as his son. Judge Woods said no, he would not recommend that. We'll have more on this sprawling case. 

  As if in a parallel universe the previous week at sentencing Will Baez spoke about his seven year old daughter and dream of opening an auto body shop. His lawyer spoke of conditions in the MCC: 26 men on 13 bunk beds in a unit with one toilet and one shower and rodents in the walls. There was no discussion of the safety value provisions of the First Step Act, which later in the day got a reduction for another defendant caught with five kilos of what he thought was heroin. Judge Abrams showed those in the courtroom the sentencing guidelines book and said Baez need not be defined by the worst day in his life. But ten years are ten years. He waved as they led him to the elevator of 40 Foley Square in shackles.

  Another defendant on April 9 before SDNY Judge Gregory Woods had no fewer than three defense lawyers with him, more than some defendants who face and receive much longer sentences. But Judge Woods' reasoning for imposing a sentence of 48 month in prison rather than the lower guideline of 57 months was that Martinez was that his was the lower level of the gang, that this will be his longest sentence on 15 convictions, and that Judge Woods hopes Martinez can get back to his 13 year old son faster than 57 months. It was as is often the case with Judge Woods a comprehensive and human sentencing, ending with an "I wish you well" and "Thanks." The lawyers, it seems, were from DLA Piper; it contrasts to other cases Inner City Press has witnessed this year, where a defendant complained that his passport was not returned, for example. We'll have more on this.


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