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Death Penalty Threatened In SDNY Courtroom For Murder of Malcolm With Only Inner City Press Present

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive, Patreon

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 23 – In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York's Magistrates Court in the hours after banker Stephen Calk was freed by Judge Debra Freeman on $5 million bond with no co-signer, other SDNY cases continued - including one with the death penalty, covered only by Inner City Press.

  It was well past 6 pm when a defendant in a black sweatshirt and leg irons was led into the Magistrates Court, with Inner City Press the only media there. Judge Freeman asked his lawyer if she is qualified for this kind of case. The answer given was Yes. More at Patreon here.

  It emerges, and Inner City Press is the first to report, that the "kind of case" presented after 6 pm to an empty courtroom is a murder and death penalty case. Defendant Espinal, arrested on May 23 at 1 p.m., in charged with murder for hire of Shaquille Malcolm as part of a Bronx drug conspiracy. Espinal faces the death penalty.

  The overall case is before SDNY Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who back on November 28, 2018 held an arraignment of Alexander Melendez in the same case. Judge Kaplan, who away for two weeks, cited gun possession which "resulted in the murder of Shaquille Malcolm in The Bronx."

 On May 23 with no one else present defendant Espinal was charged with paying for the murder. He faces the death penalty. This is no joke - Inner City Press will continue to follow this case.


Also on May 23 a dual British - US citizen living in Brooklyn but reaching out for underage sex was presented, with his wife in the courtroom by that time only with Inner City Press. Federal Defender Amy Gallichio argued that Peter Bright should be released, since his building in Brooklyn has a video surveillance system.

  But would the neighbors want the U.S. Attorney's Office to see their comings and goings? Gallichio offered for Bright to install his own camera over his door and turn the files in to the government. Judge Freeman found this of intersted and invited a second try, if only in writing. She quizzed Bright's all-American wife in the gallery and said the Peter is lucky. Was his claim to be "training" an eleven year old girl in The Bronx just puffery? Inner City Press will stay on this case.

  At 6:25 pm a defendant arrested at JFK airport on drug charges (heroin and fetanyl) appeared, with CJA lawyer de Castro and a court interpreter.

  The main issue, it seemed, was the defendant's prosthetic leg and the need for a "sock" and one that was cleaned. Judge Freedman signed an order that defendant Rivas-Marichal, dubbed "peg-leg" by one heartless Mag Court denizen, no longer by held in leg irons. The U.S. Marshals quickly obliged. And then led him away.

   Earlier at 5:30 pm a taxi driver from Astoria, Queens was in the dock along with a younger man from India whose Federal Defender sparred with the Assistant U.S. Attorney about his right to copy Defendant Malhotra's passport.

  Ultimately Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman, handling arraignments this week, told the government NOT to copy the passport, but continued detention for Malhotra unlike Calk. The taxi driver was released but can no longer use a smart phone, only some ill-defined satellite mapping system. Inner City Press will continue to follow that and this case.

In a tale of two cases, on May 21 when Colin Akparanta was brought in shackles, accused of sexually abusing female prisoners under his control in the Metropolitan Correctional Center prison, into the
SDNY Magistrates Court, his wife had been waiting for him for hours. So too his for-now publicly paid lawyer.

  A few hours before a defendant named Hunter accused of selling guns from South Carolina to an informant was processed in the same Magistrates Court, also with his wife or partner Hope Hall in the gallery. Unlike Akparnta, Farmer has no passport - and as noted in the courtroom, there are no SDNY extradition issues with South Carolina. Call it a tale of two arraignments, or presentments, whatever the term of art.

  As to Akparanta after a reading of the charges, Akparanta was offered $200,000 bail but only when others sign on to it. The U.S. Attorney's Office will go to the house he owns in Irvington, New Jersey to pick up his two guns, and then store them in a vault. His lawyer said Yes, he will be engaging in discussions about a pre-trial disposition, meaning a plea.

   The government argued for a curfew, saying that Akparanta is a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Nigeria to which he retains strong ties. He didn't try to flee when first questioned - but it seems he thought he was under investigation only for bringing contraband into the MCC for female prisoners, not for the sex acts he traded the contraband and control for.

 The unsealed indictment in USA v. Akparanta lists as his nicknames or aliases "Africa" and "Akon." (A commenter on Inner City Press' thread about the arraignment noted that the singer Akon is not, in fact, from Nigeria - but neither is Africa a country.)

  Akparanta's lawyer expressed concern about where he would be detained on the night of May 21 while awaiting another signer for his bond and the retrieval of his guns. The prosecutors said he will not be in general population or even in any Bureau of Prisons facility but rather a contract one (sounds like GEO, a private prison.)

  The government asked that time be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act for discovery, which they said is voluminous even though the complaint says the sex acts took place off camera, referring to "The Bubble," and to discusss a pre-trial disposition, meaning a plea. Judge Freeman asked Akparanta's lawyer if he anticipated engaging in such discussions. Yes, was the answer. So how long, in a private prison? Inner City Press will continue to cover this case, and others.

  Magistrate Judge Debra Freedman, presiding over SDNY Courtroom 5A for the week, said the government's proposal of a curfew as a way to prevent flight to Nigeria did not make sense. She ordered that Akparanta not have contact with any current or former inmates except in the presence of his (still publicly paid) counsel, which implies he will not be going back to work as a correctional officer any time soon.

  Inner City Press and @SDNYLIVE will be there.


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