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For Mrabet Trial US Got OK to Seal Courtroom Then Guilty now 2d Victim Impact Statement

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book

SDNY COURT EXCLUSIVE, March 21 -  In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on January 5, a bond or detention proceeding was held by Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn for Mounir Mrabet, charged with narcotics conspiracy.

Inner City Press was present as the only media in the Mag Court. Related Mag Court live-tweeted thread (more on Patreon here) vlog here

Mrabet was in a white t-shirt; he had been arrested at 6 in the morning. He consented to detention without prejudice.

On May 11, 2023, Mrabet appeared before the assigned District Judge, Jed S. Rakoff. Trial was set for August 8, and discovery production to the MDC was discussed.

Then Mrabet's counsel asked for release on bail. The AUSA replied that Mrabet had 10 kilos of meth and seven phones; 20 arrests, four felonies.

Judge Rakoff said it seemed clear, but for the increasing danger in the MDC. He said in some of his cases, defendants have been moved to other facilities. No commitment to make that recommendation was made by the AUSA. Mrabet remains detained.

Jump cut to June 29, 2023 - Mrabet was back in court, this time being allowed to fire his CJA lawyer (who nevertheless continued to make discovery arguments on his bahalf). Mrabet, speaking for himself, described lock-downs in the MDC and the difficulty of getting discovery on a laptop - he wanted it printed out. Judge Rakoff ordered the print outs. The AUSA said she would look into it - and that a superseding indictment had been added.

On July 5 Judge Rakoff approved the US Attorney's Office proposal to put all the iCloud text messages on a laptop and FedEx it to Mrabet in the MDC, rather than 30 bankers boxes of print-outs which FedEx said would cost over $50,000. The US says this "eliminates the delay of awaiting a CJA-funded laptop from the defense."

 A new CJA lawyer was appointed, and on July 14 Judge Rakoff set a new trial date: November 6, 2023.

On August 4 the new CJA lawyer moved to suppress, declaring that Detective Mark Gurleski obtained the warrant based on false statements and annexing NYPD records of interviews about Hyatt room 3344 and a storage locker at 501 Tenth Avenue.

On November 2, 2023, the US Attorney's Office wrote in seeking to have the courtroom sealed during the trial, for UC-1 who they want to leave unnamed, or with pseudonym. They got it approved: "ORDER as to Mounir Mrabet: The Government's request for limited closure of the courtroom is GRANTED. The Government's request for UC-1 to testify at trial using only a pseudonym, is GRANTED. (Signed by Judge Jed S. Rakoff on 11/3/2023)."

They claim an audio feed will be available (as for example SDNY District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer provided in another case Inner City Press wrote in about) - and that "the Government would make the daily transcript of IC-1's testimony available to the public through the court reporter's office."

On November 7, Inner City Press found Courtroom 14B locked midday. It returned at 2 pm and entered the courtroom, only to be told to leave, that an audio feed was available in 23B. But that was locked (as were 24B and 26B, which Inner City Press checked). It was after 3 pm when the sealing without audio ended, and a DEA expert got on the stand.  A note was left.

Even as to a belated transcript - at how high a cost? Can that really be called publicly available? Some Districts provide an online list of all proceedings for which closure is sought. Here, nothing --

and on November 9, amid an unrelated JPM Chase settlement with David Boies, guilty verdicts against Mrabet, sentencing set for February 12, 2024.

On December 19, Judge Rakoff docketed the outcome of a conference: "The Government may submit a letter brief, of up to five single-spaced pages, by 12/29/2023 regarding whether the Court should permit non-statutory victims to be heard at Mrabet's sentencing. Defense counsel may submit a responsive letter brief, of up to five single-spaced pages, by 1/12/2024."

The prosecutors' December 29 letter recounts the overdose deaths in room 3344 of the Hyatt Grand Central Hotel on July 29-30, 2022 and cites US v. Sica (2d Cir. 2017)

On March 15, 2024 the US Attorney's Office, noting the 15 year minimum, asked for 30 to life, attaching a Victim Impact Statement from the mother of the deceased: "all you see is money you have made because you do not have a conscience at all. I wish you no mercy."

On March 20 the US Attorney's Office put in another victim impact statement, from the father of a deceased: "He had plans to become a professional hockey player. I would ask the Court to do whatever it can to eliminate the evil"

The case is US v. Mrabet, 23-cr-69 (Rakoff)



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