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Citigroup Gets Documents Removed From Public Docket In SDNY Lawsuit Against It

By Matthew Russell Lee, "Sealed" docs here

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 28 – Alongside the big picture Trump and NCAA and Avenatti and UN bribery and Bangladesh Bank heist litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, there are old cases lurching along, sometimes with filings for no good reason sealed, with no notice to the public.

 On May 28 SDNY Judge Henry B. Pitman presided over a session in a lawsuit filed in 2004: Advanced Analytics Inc. v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc, et al. An argument was made to seal, to remove from the public docket, entries 302 and 305. Plaintiffs lawyer Li objected, but said he had been forced to leave in iPad downstairs and so couldn't respond with specifics.

  Judge Pitman said that very few "public" docket items are ever looked at by anyone. He went on to say, in post-hoc declaring the already published documents now sealed that "if anyone is aggrieved, it's the public." Yes, but how would the public know? Judge Pitman said, "If a member of the public wants to get a sealed document, maybe the issue changes."

  Well, now after a full SDNY day of Avenatti, in this 2004 case for docket items 302 and 305 PACER says, "This document is not available." But they are on Patreon, here. What next? Watch this site.

Also in the SDNY there is a steady stream of Americans with Disabilities Act ligitation. Much is certainly laudable. But on May 7 in front of SDNY Judge John Koeltl, a lawyer who flew up from Aventura, Florida to try to enforce a seemingly oral deal with a deli's now replaced lawyer tried twice to seal portions of the case. It is Ricardo Velasquez v. West Village Finest Deli and Eropel LCC, its landlord, 18-cv-4580.

   Eropel's lawyer told Judge Koetlt that of the 22 claims Velasquez had begun with, he had sought a settlement with attorney's fees only four of the claims, including for example signage.  There, the lawyer representing Velasquez cut him off and said he didn't want the terms of the confidential (non) settlement made public. Later he told Judge Koeltl that he was concerned about submitting his main evidence, an email from the deli's deposed lawyer to the mediator. Judge Koeltl suggested he file it under seal. What is going on here?

  The deli's new lawyer, Ian Wallace, did not come to court - standing in for him was a so-called per diem lawyer who said that fact that Mr. Wallace was in London did not mean he did not acknowledge the magnitude of this case. Indeed. We'll have more on this.

Back on April 15, as reported by Inner City Press, a repeat ADA filer Stuart Finkelstein was called out in Judge Koeltl's courtroom if not by Judge Koeltl, as having perhaps filed a case without a client's consent and having kept the settlement. While only $15,000, as Inner City Press reported last week from the SDNY courtroom of Judge Alison Nathan, the volume of repeat ADA traffic is notable. So to was the response on April 15 - that Finkelstein file a declaration and what he called his proof, but some of it under seal, withheld from the public and presumably even his client. Inner City Press was the only media left in the courtroom and will have more on this.

Moments before in front of Judge Koeltl a doctor facing an NYPD parking ticket and reportedly saying "I'm the hero" back in 2016 was without question present as a police brutality jury trial. Rachel Wellner was at the plaintiff's table and NYPD officer Vega was on the stand, getting asked Didn't you touch near her breast? Wellner was a breast surgeon at Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx but got fired after what the tabloids called her "cop ram" incident. Both the Daily New and the New York Post at the time mocked her for saying she was the hero and the NYPD was not. Her civil complaint recites her voluntary work in Nicaragua and Israel. SDNY Judge John G. Koeltl at the end of questioning on April 15 told the jury to be sure not to check social media (how realistic that is today is a question), then held several off the record sidebars with the case's attorneys, followed by pleasantries with visitors from Australia. We'll have more on this trial.

   Earlier on April 15 former NYPD officer Gerard Scparta pled guilty on April 12 to theft of public funds in the form of SSI disability benefits and to tax evasion.  SDNY Judge Alison Nathan set his sentencing date for July 16; the US Attorney's office has agreed to a sentence guideline between 30 and 37 months in prison. As part of the plea ritual Judge Nathan asked if the events had taken place in the SDNY. First there was mention of Staten Island - which is the Eastern District - then that the Social Security office Scparta dealt with was in Orange County, in the SDNY. The strip club where he work while claiming to be disabled was in Manhattan. But there's more: as recounted in the complaint that was superseded on April 15, " a cooperating witness ("CW-1") 2 , I have learned the following, in substance and in part: a. Between in or about 1987 and in or about 1990, GERARD SCPARTA, the defendant, and CW-1 both worked together as NYPD officers on a taskforce in the 1st Precinct in Manhattan. b. Between approximately in or about 1992 and in or about 2012, CW-1 referred NYPD police officers to CC-1 so that CC-1 could assist the officers to defraud the SSA by submitting applications for SSD that contained false statements regarding purported disabilities. Because officers who had sustained legitimate injuries while working could still perform certain types of work, many of the officers referred to CC-1 by CW-1 falsely stated to the SSA that they were depressed and/or had mental health issues in order to certify that they were incapable of performing any gainful activity. In exchange for referring these officers to CC-1, CW-1 received four months of the disability benefits received by any officer who was approved to receive benefits. c. In or about 1997, approximately one year prior to SCPARTA's submission of an application for SSD benefits to the SSA, CW-1 referred SCPARTA to CC-1. Specifically, CW-1 escorted SCPARTA to CC-l's residence for meetings on approximately three or four occasions over the course of a year." There is a footnote: " Like CC-1, CW-1 has pleaded guilty to grand larceny in New York State Court for his involvement in this scheme to defraud the SSA. CW-1 is cooperating with law enforcement with the hope of receiving a more lenient sentence." Inner City Press aims to have more on this, and on the two counts in the superseding information that Scparta pled not guilty to on Monday.

Back on April 12 when Will Baez came up for sentencing on he faced a mandatory minimum ten years in prison for five kilos of heroin and a .45 handgun and ammo in his Bronx apartment. The courtroom of SDNY Judge Ronnie Abrams was packed with dozens of family and friends, and Baez spoke about his seven year old daughter and dream of opening an auto body shop. His lawyer spoke of conditions in the MCC: 26 men on 13 bunk beds in a unit with one toilet and one shower and rodents in the walls. There was no discussion of the safety value provisions of the First Step Act, which later in the day got a reduction for another defendant caught with five kilos of what he thought was heroin. Judge Abrams showed those in the courtroom the sentencing guidelines book and said Baez need not be defined by the worst day in his life. But ten years are ten years. He waved as they led him to the elevator of 40 Foley Square in shackles.

Another defendant on April 9 before SDNY Judge Gregory Woods had no fewer than three defense lawyers with him, more than some defendants who face and receive much longer sentences. But Judge Woods' reasoning for imposing a sentence of 48 month in prison rather than the lower guideline of 57 months was that Martinez was that his was the lower level of the gang, that this will be his longest sentence on 15 convictions, and that Judge Woods hopes Martinez can get back to his 13 year old son faster than 57 months. It was as is often the case with Judge Woods a comprehensive and human sentencing, ending with an "I wish you well" and "Thanks." The lawyers, it seems, were from DLA Piper; it contrasts to other cases Inner City Press has witnessed this year, where a defendant complained that his passport was not returned, for example. We'll have more on this.

  The U.S. Treasury employee accused in October of leaking Suspicious Activity Reports about Paul Manafort and others, Natalie Edwards, pled not guilty back on January 30 before  Judge Woods. Her next appearance was set for April 4 at 2 pm, but when Inner City Press came in again through the metal detectors to cover it, other cases were on in Judge Woods' 12th floor courtroom. His deputy informed  Inner City Press that Edwards was adjourned to May 2 at 10 am.

  One of the other cases in front of Judge Woods, a defense lawyer argued that his client Freddy would never have voluntarily told the detectives that he is a "great dice roller;" he is making a suppression motion. But it will be delayed, by vacation and the prosecutor being on trial. Judge Woods urges both sides to file more quickly, and pointed asked if a police witness had, in fact, perjured himself. That trial is set for July 22 - the case did not seem to be listed on the board in the lobby of 500 Pearl Street, and still without electronics it was not easy to inquire, yet.

 Back on January 20 on Worth Street, Inner City Press asked her lawer Jacob Kaplan of Brafman & Associates about a statement made during the proceeding, that another person's device was also search. Kaplan acknowledged that had been said, adding that he didn't know who it was. Video here, Vine here

  Jump cut to 2 April 2019: "I was a street drug dealer in from of my building in the Bronx," a defendant told U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Paul A. Engelmayer on April 2. Defendant Gonzalez was pleading guilty to a lesser included charge, with a guideline sentence of between 120 and 150 months in jail. But he won't be sentenced until July 11 at 2:30 pm, after the Probation Department does its interview and issues a Pre Sentencing Report that will remain sealed until, somehow, Gonzalez appeals. We'll have more on this - there were no family members in the courtroom, no media other than Inner City Press. Less than hour earlier when Eldar Rakhamimov appeared for sentencing for inflating the number of Pepsi and Canada Dry bottles returned through his business in the SDNY courtroom of Judge Ronnie Abrams, he had many of his employees and family members with him. His lawyer Tony Mirvis pointed them out, arguing that if not sentenced to jail he could pay back the $700,000 restitution faster. But half of the debt is to the State of New York; recently Judge Abrams rejected just such has argument from a medical software company executive on tax fraud. Here, Judge Abrams went below the 37 to 46 month guideline sentence, to 15 months with two years of supervised released - the books of his recycling company will be open - and a $15,000 fine. Two of his employees were asked to take off their caps by the Court Security Officers. The prosecutor said, It would not be a bad thing if his company just fell apart. The case is US v. Eldar Rakhamimov 18 – CR – 72 (RA).


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