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In SDNY Rhino Horn Case Motion To Sever Amara Cherif Trial Denied As S&C Not Taken

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, April 14 – Back on June 13, 2019 SDNY then-US Attorney Geoffrey L. Berman announced the indictment of four citizens of African nations for trafficking in rhino horn, elephant ivory and heroin into New York and that one of them, a Liberian named "Kampala Man," had earlier in the day been arraigned in the Magistrates Court. Inner City Press was there. 

On December 11, 2019 assigned U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory H. Woods held a proceeding in the case, or tried to. The interpreter was not doing simultaneous or even complete interpretation. Judge Woods reminded him this was necessary, as he translated the defendants request to know the name of the judge.

Jump cut to March 30, 2022, where Kromah appeared in Judge Woods courtroom. Inner City Press was there. As part of the change of plea script, Judge Woods asked Kromah of his employment history.

 Kromah said he was born in Liberia and sold shoes and used clothes there until the civil war. Then he moved to Guinea. His CJA counsel urged him to keep it simpler. He did, and pled guilty. Sentencing is set for June 29, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. See also,  Greenwire's E&E News of April 5, 2022, April 5, 2022, "Alleged Rhino Horn Smuggler Pleads Guilty After Years in Jail," by Michael Doyle, "The guilty plea was first reported by New York City's Inner City Press and took place without the fanfare that accompanied the June 2019 announcement of the original indictment naming Kromah and three other defendants."

On April 14, a proceeding for two remaining defendants was held, and Inner City Press attended in person. There were four interpreters - two Mandingo, two Arabic - and the day's CJA counsel from Sullivan and Cromwell, on stand-by.

 But after denying Cherif's motion to sever his trial to avoid being mixed up in the heroin charge, the motion by his lawyer to withdraw was itself withdrawn. S&C headed to the Mag Court, on which we'll have more.

The case is US v. Kromah, 19-cr-338 (Woods).
It is US v. Kromah, 19-cr-338 (Woods).

Docketed back  on August 19 was Amara Cherif's letter to Judge Woods: "I am contacting you to request an official court analysis of my sentence exposure," citing Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure  32(e)(1). The letter is dated June 26 but took seven weeks to docket - as, for example, the letters to Judge Woods from FINCEN leaker Natalie Edwards should also be docketed.

On August 20 Judge Woods  denied Cherif (no ruling yet on unsealed Edwards' letters after her thanks they were considered by the Court) - "Defendant writes to request an official court analysis of sentencing. ENDORSEMENT: Application denied. The Court cannot respond to this request. Mr. Cherif has counsel and the Court does not provide advisory guidance to litigants. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Gregory H. Woods on 8/19/2021)"


  In connection with Judge Woods' hearing Inner City Press was contacted and told that Surur has been ordered extradited. We added it with h/t, below. Now on January 25, it's confirmed: "Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that MANSUR MOHAMED SURUR, a/k/a “Mansour,” a Kenyan citizen, was extradited from Kenya and arrived in the United States this morning.  SURUR was arrested by Kenyan authorities on July 29, 2020, in Mombasa, Kenya, on charges of conspiracy to traffic in rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory, both endangered wildlife species, which involved the illegal poaching of more than approximately 35 rhinoceros and more than 100 elephants.  In addition, SURUR was charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 10 kilograms of heroin.  SURUR’s co-defendant, Moazu Kromah, a/k/a “Ayoub,” a/k/a “Ayuba,” a/k/a “Kampala Man,” a citizen of Liberia, was previously deported to the United States from Uganda on June 13, 2019.  Co-defendant Amara Cherif, a/k/a “Bamba Issiaka,” a citizen of Guinea, was extradited to the United States from Senegal on April 3, 2020.  Co-defendant Abdi Hussein Ahmed, a/k/a “Abu Khadi,” a citizen of Kenya, remains a fugitive.  SURUR is expected to be arraigned later today before U.S.  Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods. "

Inner City Press first reported: Surur is facing, and trying to fight, extradition, h/t

The case is US v. Kromah, 19-cr-338 (Woods). US v. Kromah, 19-cr-338 (Woods).


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