Federal prosecutors in New York admitted to telling a “flat lie” about evidence in order to win a case against a businessman accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, according to reports.
Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) attempted to block the release of evidence following a ruling last week by the U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Judge Nathan urged the Justice Department to open an internal probe into possible misconduct by prosecutors in the terrorism and international narcotics unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the SDNY.
Judge Nathan said the prosecutors made a “deliberate attempt to obscure” the truth and attempted to “bury” a key document that might have helped the defense.
Nathan’s push for a probe granted the Associated Press access to unsealed documents. At the request of the AP, dozens of private text messages, transcripts and correspondences were unsealed Monday and prosecutors were ordered to explain themselves.
The newly disclosed records showed prosecutors discussing turning over records to the defense team for Ali Sadr Hashemi Nejad, who was charged in 2018 with money laundering, bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran by funneling $115 million through Venezuelan front companies.
Sadr was found guilty by jurors and was convicted in March 2020, facing a maximum of 125 years in prison. However, prosecutors in the SDNY filed a motion to withdraw the conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct, and all charges were dropped.
According to the AP, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Kim, wanted to introduce a bank record as evidence, but realized the document had not been shared with Sadr’s attorneys.
Kim suggested turning it over immediately to the defense, however, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Lake, recommended they “wait until tomorrow and bury it in some other documents.”
After Sadr’s lawyers discovered the document, they complained to prosecutors.
The prosecutors came up with an excuse, saying they believed the document had already been turned over in a previous batch of records.
The prosecutors’ supervisors, Emil Bove and Shawn Crowley, then got involved, according to court records, and in an exchange of text messages, Bove admitted the prosecutors’ excuse was a “flat lie.”
Follow Annaliese Levy on Twitter @AnnalieseLevy
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Cuomo says he’ll ‘fully cooperate’ with NY AG’s review of sexual harassment claims
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Wednesday that he will “fully cooperate” with the state attorney general’s independent review into sexual harassment allegations made against the currently scandal-ridden governor, saying, “I fully support a woman’s right to come forward.”
Last Wednesday, Lindsey Boylan, who served in his administration for over three years, accused Cuomo of suggesting to her on a 2017 flight that they play strip poker, inappropriate touching, and kissing her on the lips without her consent.
Following Boylan’s accusations, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett alleged the governor indicated interest in having an affair with her while she was serving in his administration as a health policy adviser. In a Saturday New York Times report, Bennett told the newspaper that Cuomo asked her if she had “ever been with an older man,” adding that “age doesn’t matter” in relationships.
At Wednesday’s press briefing, the Empire State governor addressed the accusations leveled against him over the past seven days by three women and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) independent review into those claims, which she announced on Monday was formally proceeding.
“As you probably know, the attorney general is doing an independent review, and I will fully cooperate with that review,” Cuomo said at the beginning of his statement. “Now, the lawyers say I shouldn’t say anything when you have a pending review until that review is over. I understand that, I’m a lawyer, too. But, I want New Yorkers to hear from me directly on this.”
“First, I fully support a woman’s right to come forward,” the governor began. “And I think it should be encouraged in every way. I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it. I feel awful about it, and frankly I am embarrassed by it, and that’s not easy to say. But that’s the truth.”
This echoes what Cuomo said in a Sunday statement about the allegations, in which he stated he “may have been insensitive” during his tenure but charged his accusers of misinterpreting his actions, saying, “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation… I am truly sorry about that.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Cuomo iterated “I never touched anyone inappropriately,” repeated that sentence, then said “I never knew at the time that I was making anyone feel uncomfortable” and repeated that one too.
“And I certainly never, ever meant to offend anyone or hurt anyone or cause anyone any pain. That is the last thing I would ever want to do,” he continued. “I ask the people of this state to wait for the facts from the attorney general’s report before forming an opinion. Get the facts, please, before forming an opinion.”
“I also want you to know that I have learned from what has been an incredibly difficult situation for me as well as other people, and I’ve learned an important lesson,” the governor said at the end of his statement. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for whatever pain I caused anyone, I never intended it, and I will be the better for this experience.”
Amid Boylan and Bennett’s allegations, another report of Cuomo sexually harassing a woman has cropped up. On Monday, a woman named Anna Ruch accused the governor of placing his hands on her cheeks—without her consent—at a 2019 wedding reception and asking if he could kiss her. A photograph of the two together at the event has also been circulating on social media.
Asked at Wednesday’s briefing about the pictures that have resurfaced of him being touchy with people, particularly that of him and Ruch, the governor claimed that it is his way of greeting people.
“I understand the opinion of—and feelings of—Ms. Ruch,” Cuomo said. “You can find hundreds of pictures of me making the same gesture with hundreds of people—women, children, men, etc. You can go find hundreds of pictures of me kissing people. […] It is my usual and customary way of greeting.”
Moreover, the governor said that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, would do the same thing.
“By the way, it was my father’s way of greeting people,” Cuomo said, explaining, “You’re the governor of the state, you want people to feel comfortable, you want to reach out to them.”
He also mentioned that he kisses and hugs legislators and noted that at an event in Queens the other day he hugged pastors and state assembly members.
Furthermore, the governor said that his intent “doesn’t matter,” saying, “What it matters is if anybody was offended by it.”
“But if they were offended by it, then it was wrong,” he added, going on to say that if they were offended or hurt by it, he apologizes.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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