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In Sex Trafficking Case Justin Rivera Got 21 Years now Sir Murray Convicted of Tampering

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Thread

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 17 – In the sex trafficking trial of US v. Carl Andrews that Inner City Press has been reporting on despite a partially sealed courtroom and US Attorney withholding of exhibits, the defense on March 14, 2020 asked for and got a stay and then end of the trial.

The reason? Coronavirus COVID-19.

  For that re-trial one of the US Attorney's Office's witnesses is blamed for putting the jury, court staff, and the Press at risk (Inner City Press witnessed and reported on her March 12 testimony, here), see below.

On April 21, 2021, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Paul A. Engelmayer held a conference in the run-up to the related US v. Rivera trial, set for June.

On June 9, the US Attorney's office was nearing closing its case. On the afternoon of June 9 victim Natalie Rivera answered question after question from the Assistant US Attorney, like:

  Did you want to keeping to prostitute for him?

Answer: No.

   What did he mean by, you're my bottom b-word?

  Answer: That's how pimps keep their prostitutes.

  Her testimony came across as forthright, as least to this reporter. The jury filed out at 4:55 pm, and Judge Engelmayer arranged for defense lawyer Anthony Cecutti to meet with Rivera inside 40 Foley before he was taken back to the MCC.

  On June 11 until 1:12 pm, Justin Rivera's defense lawyer gave his closing to the 15 jurors and alternates. He admitted, there were guns, Justin beat Natalie, they engaged in prostitution business. But he said Natalie had agency, that she chose to prostitute herself. He began, soon another person will be in that chair --

  The Assistant US Attorney objected, and Judge Engelmayer sustained the objection. With the jury out to lunch, he admonished the defense for misstating the standard on venue. It's not if the jury doubts the memory of being in Manhattan and the Bronx, it's the preponderance of evidence.

At 5 pm on June 11, Inner City Press went back to the courtroom, expecting to see the jurors instructed on not reading about the case (here) over the weekend.
  First, Judge Engelmayer said that the jurors had selected the foreperson, Juror Number 1, and that he would be sending them away for the weekend. Then he said, There's a been a verdict.

That was fast.

  Six U.S. Marshals came into the back row where Inner City Press was standing (the gallery had only nine positions, largely taken up with overflow counsel).

  The jurors were led in. On Count 1, Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, how do you find? The foreman said, Guilty. So did the others when polled.

It being six o'clock, Judge Engelmayer did not yet set a sentencing date. And the verdict won't be docketed until Monday. But it's here, just after, on Inner City Press. And see this live stream stand-up.

On October 11, Judge Engelmayer sentenced Justin Rivera to 21 years in prison for conspiring to sex traffic two victims, along with five years of supervised release.

Meanwhile in February 2022 Sir Murray was indicted for threatening and/or trying to bribe Rivera's "Victim-1." Jump cut to Boxing Day, December 26, 2022, and Murray's second lawyer filed in that case, asking for statements made by Victim-1 before any effort was made to impact her testimony - and offers to make an ex parte showing why getting these is likely to be exculpatory.

On February 17, 2023, Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron issued a five page ruling denying Sir Murray's application to be released on bail: "the Government puts forth Instagram messages sent by Murray that it contends reflect witness tampering ... As Magistrate Judge Hummel noted in the February 10, 2022 bail hearing, the Defendant has an extensive history of violent crime. (See 2/10/22 Tr at 15-16.) Fourth, “the nature and seriousness of the danger to . . . the community that would be posed by [Defendant’s] release,” 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g)(4), is significant. Defendant was on parole when he tampered with Victim-1. If released, Defendant will have an even stronger incentive to attempt to tamper yet again, now that his own freedom is at stake. Taking all the foregoing into account, the Court finds there are no conditions or set of conditions that could be set which would assure the safety of the community."

On April 7, 2023, the US Attorney's Office opposed Sir Murray's position that he and his lawyer should be able to share 3500 material earlier than three days before trial.

On May 1, the US and Murray filed their opposition to the other's motions in limine. The US wants to put in much evidence of Murray's relationship with Rivera and the gang; Murray says it's not in dispute and prejudicial. The trial is scheduled for May 15.

On May 8, Judge Schofield ruled on the Government's motions in limine: "it is ORDERED that the Government's application to: (i) permit introduction of Defendant's co-conspirators' statements is GRANTED, subject to Rule 403 analysis," etc.

On May 16, Sir Murray whispered to his lawyers at defense table as the AUSA read his and Natalie Rodriguez' text messages, including a reference to "proctorial misconduct." After another government witness, both sides rested.

And on May 17, "The Government's summation held. Defendant's summation held. The Government's rebuttal summation held. Jury Charge completed. Jury deliberations begin. Jury reached a verdict. Defendant found GUILTY on Counts 1s and 2s." Sentencing is set for Sepember 25 at 11 am.

This case is US v. Murray, 22-cr-76 (Schofield)

Watch this site.

The underlying case is now US v. Rivera, 19-cr-131 (Engelmayer).


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