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Cesar Sayoc Described As Changed Man in the MCC By Federal Defenders

By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope, Photos

SDNY COURTHOUSE, July 22 – When Cesar Sayoc was led for a second time into the courtroom of Judge Jed Rakoff in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 15 his March 21 guilty plea to more than 60 criminal counts was in question. Less than an hour later it was again all systems go: no Curcio lawyer to consult with, no vacating of any of the March 21 guilty pleas, and sentencing now sent for August 5 at 2 pm. Que pasa? Periscope video here.

 On July 22 Sayoc's Federal Defenders lawyers described him as a changed man: "Mr. Sayoc has sought psychological treatment for the first time in his adult life. The first several months in the MCC were very challenging and after a suicide attempt, he was kept on suicide watch. See Ex. CC (MCC medical records). He is now taking anti-anxiety medication, which is helping him to stabilize after a lifetime of anxiety, paranoia, and trauma. Id. Mr. Sayoc has not given up on life. More than anything, he wishes for the chance to one day leave federal prison and show that he has changed and can live within the bounds of the law. Instead of watching political television, Mr. Sayoc has taken every course available to him at the MCC, and he has excelled in his 15-hour Reflections course and other programs designed to help him take responsibility for his actions. See Ex. DD (Mr. Sayoc’s MCC transcript); Ex. EE (collected certificates earned by Mr. Sayoc). Mr. Sayoc has also signed up to be an inmate companion to help others avoid the temptation of suicide. The inmate companion program requires training and rigorous dedication, staying up through the night with inmates on suicide watch to ensure they are safe. When he is designated to his next BOP facility, Mr. Sayoc hopes to continue his education and to enroll in additional vocational training. If he is released, he plans to continue working in South Florida while volunteering to help others with mental illness." Sounds like a plan. Watch this site.

 On July 16 Judge Rakoff had docketed now only the FBI report but also one from ESI commissioned by the Federal Defenders which concludes that "the 16 devices are, at best, each a crude counterfeit of an explosive device... [they] are not 'destructive devices' as defined in Title 18 US Code Section 921." How will this play on August 5? Watch this site.

The U.S. Attorney's office began by arguing that in light of Sayoc's two letters - so far - to Judge Rakoff, perhaps the plea should be vacated and Curcio counsel assigned. But once Sayok said what was wanted - that he knew that at least property, in the form of mail boxes, could be damaged by his amateur explosives - the government was satisfied. There is a third letter in the mail but not yet received. Sayok's Federal Defenders lawyers said it might have to be redacted. Judge Rakoff asked Sayok if he wanted to consult with another lawyer, and Sayok said no.

By contrast, in the recent SDNY case of Daniel Hernandez a/k/a/ Tekashi 6ix9ine, Curcio counsel was assigned despite the defendant insisting he was happy with his counsel. See Inner City Press story here. There, the possible conflict of interest was structural: his counsel Lance Lazzaro represented other co-defendants. But here Sayok sent his letter(s) without even sending copies to his assigned counsel. A Curcio counsel might slow things down. But what's the rush? That was exactly the phrase Sayok used on April 15, that he'd felt rushed. Inner City Press, present in Judge Rakoff's courtroom on both March 21 and April 15, will have more on this.

  Sayok appeared on  March 21 to plead guilty to 65 counts his raspy voice was barely audible, even from the front row where Inner City Press sat. The problem was more than volume. On the key point of whether he intended for the bombs he sent to people ranging from Joe Biden to Kamala Harris to Tom Steyer to explode, Sayoc was unclear. Afterward some said he was "crazy like a fox," ready to make this argument at his sentencing on September 12. But Sayoc also asked Judge Rakoff if the government will give him a list of the property of his that they are taking, when that is fully covered in the plea agreement that Sayoc ostensibly read and understood. At one point Sayoc began to ask Judge Rakoff a question and his Federal Defender lawyers cut him off, "conferred" with him and the question went away. Perhaps this is to help him. But it does not seem unreasonable to ask, Is Sayoc competent? Especially when he is pleading, or has pled, guilty to charges involving life imprison plus ten years. Judge Rakoff, in fine form, made fun of the government's assertion of its power even after death. But again the nagging question: is Sayoc competent? Early in the proceeding he said a sentence that no one understood. Then he referred to AA. Then his voice trailed off. How will he be at sentencing? Inner City Press will be there - in the front row or closer. More on this to follow. The day before there was another, lower profile change of plea to guilty on wire fraud charges  before SDNY Judge George B. Daniels. But when it was time to allocute there was a problem, or at least a long pause. Defendant Evaldas Rimasauskas read a statement how he set up bank accounts in Latvia and Cyprus and got Victim-1 and Victim-2 to wire money into them. But then Judge Daniels asked, "Why did the victims wire the money?"
Rimasauskas conferred with his lawyer Paul D. Petrus, and with the interpreter. Finally they asked, Can you repeat the question? Judge Daniels did, including What were they promised? "I'm not 100% sure," Rimasauskas said. The government jumped in to say he was not charged with inducing, only with logistics. But he was described as being involved in false contracts to support transfers. Didn't he know what the Victims thought they were buying? The ritual of allocation had broken down. Afterward some said the indictment should have been read more closely. But shouldn't a defendant who is actually guilty of the charge being pled to be able to answer such a question? If not, why even hold these empty ceremonies? We'll have more on this - sentencing is set for July 24 at 10 am. The case is US v. Rimasauskas, 16 cr 841.

Another ceremony: back on March 18 when the marshals brought in another defendant, Ronald Johnson, he signed the change of plea. Then he it was time for him to allocute, he haltingly read out a generic statement written for him by his lawyer. That between January, no June, and October 2018 he "wittingly" sold firearms. Judge Crotty asked, Did your lawyer write your statement? Yes. Do you adopt it? No. No? Oh, yes. The guidelines suggested 97 to 121 months, but on the count pled to, the maximum if five years or sixty months. The case is US v. Johnson, 18 cr 907. Sentencing is set for June 12. Look for the straight five... For weeks the trial of US v. Latique Johnson et al has plodded along across Pearl Street in SDNY Courtroom 318 in 40 Foley Square; by March 20 summations are set to begin. The case began with a sealed indictment, signed by Preet Bharara in 2016, alleging the use of a firearm for a drug dealing conspiracy in The Bronx. Preet has moved on, but the trial continues. On March 15 there was talk of sour diesel marijuana packed in vacuum sealed bags, BWM car keys and digital scales. SDNY Judge Paul G. Gardephe said he would not be comfortable with a witness saying he thought the Facebook photo showed marijuana; the relative attributability of Instagram and Facebook pages was discussed, although the companies are commonly owned. During the trial the jury has only sat 9:30 to 2:30; next week it will shift to a full shift to 5 pm if Judge Gardephe has his way. Inner City Press will be there - watch this site. Back on March 8 a shooting in The Bronx in October 2018 was the subject of an ill-attended SDNY conference. Jerome Jackson is described as in a white t-shirt with silver handgun on 2 October 2018 on Freeman Street - but in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Kevin Castel he was in jail house blues and shackles. His lawyer Julia Gatto questioned whether the NYPD detectives who questioned Jackson about the shooting were in fact part of a joint task force with the Feds - no, Karin Potlock for the government said, and on that basis no suppression - and questioned probable cause. There will be a hearing on that on April Fools Day and Inner City Press aims to be there. The case is US v. Jackson, 18 CR 760. A week before on March 1 when Statue of Liberty climber Patricia Okoumou appeared in the SDNY , it was to face revocation of bail for more recent climbs, all to protest the separation of immigrant families. SDNY Judge Gorenstein did not revoke bail but imposed house arrest. He jibed that it appeared Ms. Okoumou could only support herself by donations garnered by climbing. Afterward Inner City Press asked her lawyer Ron Kuby about this argument. He said the judge has it precisely wrong, or in reverse: she raised money because she is an activist, she is not an actively in order to make money. Ms. Okoumou raised her fist, and headed to Staten Island. Photos here. Inner City Press, which interviewed Okoumou on December 5 just after another SDNY decision, in the Patrick Ho / CEFC China Energy UN bribery case, headed out and streamed this Periscope, and this Q&A, with more to come, on this case and others. How guns eject shell casings was the subject of expert testimony in a Bronx gang trial on February 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Before Judge Robert W. Sweet, an ATF agent traced a bullet back to Illinois; under cross examination he said a shell casing might eject feet rather than yards unless it bounced on something. Then testimony went back to 2007, a 14-year old with a gun heading from the Millbrook projects to the Mitchell Houses. The defense asked for a mistrial when the name of a second gang was introduced; the prosecution shot back (so to speak) that it came from photos on the defendant's own Facebook page. And so it goes in trials these days. Back on February 25 a prison sentence of life plus five years was imposed for a Bronx murder by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon on February 25. She presided over the trial in which Stiven Siri-Reynoso was convicted of, among other things, murder in aid of racketeering for the death of Jessica White, a 28 year old mother of three, in the Bronx in 2016. Jessica White's mother was in the court room; she was greeted by Judge McMahon but declined to speak before sentencing. Siri-Reynoso was representing himself by this point, with a back-up counsel by his side. Judge McMahon told him, "You're a very smart man... a tough guy, a calculating person... You are a coward, sent a child to do it for you... Your emissary shot the wrong person, a lovely lady... It was a vicious, evil attack against the good people of that neighborhood." When she imposed the life plus five sentence, a woman on the Jessica White side of the courtroom cried out, yes Ma'am, put the animal away! Later, after Siri-Reynoso ended asking how he can get more documents about the case, a woman on his side of the courtroom said, "No te preocupes, muchacho, Dios sabe lo que hace" - don't worry, God knows what he is doing. But does He? Earlier on February 25 when the government tried to defend its 2018 change of policy or practice on Special Immigrant Juvenile status in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl had many questions about the change. He asked, are you saying that all the decisions before 2018 were just wrong, under a policy in place but not implemented at the time? In the overflow courtroom 15C the largely young audience laughed, as the government lawyer tried to say it wasn't a change of policy but rather an agency interpretation of the statute. Shouldn't there have been notice and comment rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act? The government said the argument proffered for this was about the Freedom of Information Act (on which, as Inner City Press has noted, the US Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has similarly reversed its policy 180 degrees without justification). SDNY Judge Koeltl demanded t know if the government is arguing that no juvenile court in New York, California (and maybe Texas for other reasons he said) is empowered to grant relief. The answer was far from clear - but where the ruling is going does seem so. Watch this site. The Bangladeshi Central Bank which was hacked for $81 million in February 2016, on January 31 sued in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Now the first pre-trial conference in the case has been set, for 2 April 2019 before SDNY Judge Lorna G. Schofield. Inner City Press will be there.

In Dhaka, the Criminal Investigation Department which failed to submit its probe report into the heist on time has now been ordered by Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury to do so by March 13 in Bangladesh Bank cyber heist case.

In the U.S. District Court for Central California, the unsealed criminal complaint against Park Jin Hyuk lists four email addresses involved in spear-phishing Bangladesh Bank and among others an unnamed "African Bank;" one of these addresses is said to also have communicated with an individual in Australia about importing commodities to North Korea in violations of UN sanctions.

To the Federal Reserve, Inner City Press has requested records relating to the Fed's role with response due in 20 working days - watch this site. In the SDNY, the case is Bangladesh Bank v Rizal Commercial Banking Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-00983. On February 3 in Dhaka Bangladesh Bank's lawyer Ajmalul Hossain said it could take three years to recover the money. The Bank's deputy governor Abu Hena Razee Hasan said those being accused -- in the civil not criminal suit -- include three Chinese nationals. Ajmalul Hossain said the Bank is seeking its hacked million plus interest and its expenses in the case. He said US Federal Reserve will extend its full support and that SWIFT, the international money transfer network, also assured of providing all the necessary cooperation in recovering the hacked money.  The Philippines returned $14.54 million in November 2016, so $66.46 million has yet to be retrieved. Now defendant RCBC Bank of the Philippines has hired the Quinn Emanuel law firm to defend it, and it already fighting back in words. RCBC’s lead counsel on the SDNY case, Tai-Heng Cheng, said:  “This is nothing more than a thinly veiled PR campaign disguised as a lawsuit. Based on what we have heard this suit is completely baseless. If the Bank of Bangladesh was serious about recovering the money, they would have pursued their claims three years ago and not wait until days before the statute of limitations. Not only are the allegations false, they don’t have the right to file here since none of the defendants are in the US." But it seems the funds were transferred to and through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And as Inner City Press reported in the US v. Patrick Ho case last year, the wiring of funds through New York can confer jurisdiction. Inner City Press will be covering this case. The first paragraph of the 103 page complaint reads, "This litigation involves a massive, multi-year conspiracy to carry out one of the largest banks heists in modern history right here in New York City. On February 4, 2016, thieves reached into a bank account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (“New York Fed”) and stole approximately $101 million (out of the nearly $1 billion they attempted to steal). The bank account was held for the benefit of Bangladesh Bank, which is Bangladesh’s Central Bank. Bangladesh Bank has had a 45-year banking relationship under which it has placed its international reserves with the New York Fed. The New York Fed is a critical component of the United States’ central banking system and its link to the international financial system." Bangladesh's lawyers on the case are "COZEN O’CONNOR John J. Sullivan, Esq.  Jesse Loffler, Esq. Yehudah Gordon, Esq." We'll have more on this.

Debaprasad Debnath, a general manager at the central bank’s Financial Intelligence Unit, Joint Director Mohammad Abdur Rab and Account and Budgeting Department General Manager Zakir Hossain all left Dhaka to head to New York, for the filing of the lawsuit, which Inner City Press will be following.

They say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which on January 29 was instructed by the US State Department to allow Juan Guaido to access Venezuelan accounts, will be helping its Bangladeshi counterpart to get to the bottom of the hack.  Those eyed include Philippines’ Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation or RCBC and some of its officials, and Philrem Service Corporation, casino owners and beneficiaries. Ajmalul Hossain QC, a lawyer for the central bank, is with them to file the case.

It is an interesting twist on the SDNY as venue for the money laundering and FCPA prosecution of Patrick Ho of CEFC for bribery in Chad and to Uganda - in this case, too, the money flowed through New York. Inner City Press intends to cover the case.


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