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Truck Driver for 200 Kilos of Drugs Was Free US Wants 25 Years on Cheema July 1 Hearing

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon

SDNY EXCLUSIVE, May 28 -  In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 17, 2022 a detention or bond proceeding was held by Magistrate Judge Jennifer E. Willis on a defendant charged conspiring to transport 200 kilos of narcotics cross-country to New York.

  Inner City Press was there, the only media in the Mag Court.

 The defendant, Christopher Burgos, had retained counsel, who argued that his client has a job driving trucks in airports and should be released.

  The prosecutor sought detention. But Judge Willis ruled that if a $100,000 personal recognizance bond is signed by three other people, including two family members (possibly including the wife from whom Burgos was said by his lawyer to be separated), he could be released.

He was. Jump-cut to August 16, 2023, when Burgos before Judge John P. Cronan sat at the defense table while his three co-defendants were in the jury box with US Marshals. Trial is set for January 29, 2024 - but issues have arisen about discovery being designated "attorney's eyes only," and defendant Bhupinder Singh Virk wants to argue for bail.

On August 28 he did, and Inner City Press was there - thread:

OK - now at bail hearing on Bhupinder Singh Virk in drug case. He offers up three homes as collateral; has asylum in US. He's from India.

Defense lawyer: My client is a Sikh & would be killed by BJP party police if he returns to India. He is a member of the MANN Party. He would not flee.

Judge: If he's convicted, would he lose his asylum status? Defense: Even with conviction he might not be removed

 Judge: But if he'd lose asylum if convicted, wouldn't that give him an incentive to flee now to a country other than India? Defense: He's never been anywhere but India and the US.

 Defense: He's been threatened and assaulted in MDC-Brooklyn [haven't heard that from SBF, only about no Adderall or vegan meals]. Stories coming

Judge: Virk will remain detained... US says he had ghost guns... He faces 188 to 235 months... He could lose asylum...

On November 20, responding to an order from Judge Cronan, the prosecutors put into the docket warrants and underlying affidavits for the phones of co-defendant Surinder Singh Cheema but withhold border inspection / CBP ROI and information from CS-1, citing a 2015 decision by then District Judge Alison J. Nathan...

Then co-defendant Bhupinder Singh Virk, a/k/a the Joker, indicted he would plead guilty, on December 6 at 1 pm.

On December 20, another plea: "Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge John P. Cronan: Change of Plea Hearing as to Michael Gian William Habib held on 12/20/2023.  Defendant pleaded guilty to Count One of the Indictment. Sentencing set for March 19, 2024."

On January 5 it emerged that Burgos is set to plead guilty - with instant remand to be debated, seemingly in light of SDNY Judge Furman's decision in US v. Chavez: "Christopher Burgos's guilty plea hearing is scheduled for January 9, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 12D of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007. See Dkt. 20. By January 8, 2024, at 3:00 p.m., the parties shall advise the Court, by joint letter or individual letters, of their views regarding whether Defendants remand will be mandatory in the event that he enters a guilty plea. See 18 U.S.C. ยง 3143(a)(2). The Court further respectfully reminds defense counsel that it expects counsel to prepare Defendant for the possibility of detention commencing at the end of the plea proceeding, in accordance with 6.B of the Court's Individual Rules and Practices in Criminal Cases (Signed by Judge John P. Cronan on 1/5/2024)."

On April 25 for his May 7 sentencing, co-defendant Surinder Singh Cheema wrote his own letter to Judge Cronan, including about books he's read in jail: "the books that helped me most were The Secret, Rich Dad Poor Dad, Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, The Four Agreements and the Magic of the Secret." He asked for 60 months - and to serve it in Canada.

On May 8, the US asked for 135 months on Cheema - then on May 25 supplemented that with new allegations of directly drug debt shooting in Toronto while in the MDC, upping their request to 25 years. Judge Cronan the same day docketed: "ORDER as to Surinder Singh Cheema. Defendant is ordered to advise the Court by the end of the day on Sunday, May 26, 2024, whether he objects to the facts asserted in the Government's instant submission, such that an evidentiary hearing is necessary. The Court is considering a sentence above the Guidelines range set forth in the parties' plea agreement. (Signed by Judge John P. Cronan on 5/25/2024)

Sentencing was set for May 28.On that day, given the new issues, delay: " Status Conference as to Surinder Singh Cheema held on 5/28/2024. The parties shall file status letters on or before June 14, 2024. An evidentiary hearing and sentencing are scheduled for July 1, 2024, at 10:00 a.m."

 Inner City Press will continue to cover the case.

The case is US v. Burgos, et al., 22-cr-618 (Cronan)



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