With out testimony from Michael Flynn, choose is skeptical of case in opposition to ex-business associate

A federal choose stated Thursday that he’s skeptical that there’s sufficient proof to convict Michael Flynn’s ex-business associate of illegally lobbying for Turkey after the previous nationwide safety adviser didn’t testify. 

“There are very substantial points as to the sufficiency of the proof,” Choose Anthony J. Trenga stated in Alexandria federal courtroom. “It’s all very, very circumstantial. A lot of it is rather speculative.”

Regardless of his feedback, the choose declined for the second to throw out the case in opposition to Bijan Rafiekian, an Iranian American businessman who ran a consulting agency with Flynn known as the Flynn Intel Group (FIG). However the choose can revisit the issues he expressed after listening to all the federal government’s proof, earlier than or after the case goes to a jury.

“There must be some proof” of an settlement, the choose stated.

Flynn was anticipated to testify that he hid Turkey’s involvement within the marketing campaign he and Rafiekian carried out with Dutch Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin to get dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen extradited from the USA. However late final month, Flynn informed prosecutors he would say solely that his statements had been false “in hindsight” and that he by no means deliberately lied. Prosecutors declined to name him to the stand, a choice that will have an effect on his sentence in Washington for mendacity to the FBI.

The witnesses from FIG and its companions who did testify stated they had been beneath the impression that Alptekin’s agency, Inovo, had employed them to assist restore enterprise confidence in Turkey by blaming Gulen for a 2016 tried coup.

It was left to Assistant U.S. Legal professional Evan Turgeon to argue that it was clear the three had been “appearing in live performance,” as a result of their “lies . . . line up nearly completely.”

Flynn, Rafiekian and Alptekin all claimed, in keeping with testimony, {that a} September 2016 assembly in New York Metropolis with Turkish officers had nothing to do with the anti-Gulen mission, nor did an op-ed crucial of Gulen revealed beneath Flynn’s identify on the day of the presidential election. The three made inconsistent statements about funds from FIG again to Alptekin, at factors calling them refunds or consulting charges with out a lot proof supporting both proposition.

FIG workers and contractors stated Alptekin was centered on “filth” that may incriminate Gulen and result in his extradition — a purpose that had no clear profit for a non-public firm. FBI agent Bryan Alfredo testified that in reviewing emails and Skype conversations between Alptekin and Rafiekian, Turkey’s enterprise local weather was by no means raised.

Former FBI agent Brian McCauley, employed by FIG as an investigator, stated Alptekin requested whether or not he had entry to categorized info on Gulen; McCauley stated no. He and a number of other others testified that Rafiekian wished to maintain the Gulen mission beneath the radar. When Rafiekian stated he discovered a strategy to keep away from submitting beneath the Overseas Agent Registration Act, McCauley testified that he emphatically suggested in opposition to it.

James Courtovich, a associate at a public relations agency employed by FIG to assist publicize the anti-Gulen marketing campaign, stated that at a gathering on Nov. 2, 2016, Alptekin expressed frustration with the tempo of the work and requested, “What am I going to inform Ankara?”

That very same day, Rafiekian despatched Alptekin an electronic mail that included a draft of the op-ed crucial of Gulen, including, “A promise made is a promise stored.” Courtovich’s agency, Sphere, helped place the op-ed within the Hill newspaper on Election Day.

That editorial was what first drew the curiosity of the Justice Division — and the counsel for the Trump marketing campaign, Invoice McGinley, who Courtovich testified known as FIG the following day, asking whether or not Flynn wrote the article for a non-public consumer.

Courtovich stated he anticipated Rafiekian to say Alptekin’s agency paid for the op-ed — it was an “simple reply.” As an alternative Rafiekian stated Flynn wrote it on his personal as a result of “he was passionate concerning the situation.”

Courtovich stated he thought he ought to contact his personal lawyer, prompting McGinley to say, “I feel we’ve got a battle right here — let’s dangle up.”

Protection attorneys dismissed Courtovich’s testimony together with different proof as ambiguous.

“There are just too many gaps,” argued James Tysse of Akin Gump.

Prosecutors requested the choose to not less than wait till after a jury verdict earlier than deciding on the deserves of the case. If the jury convicts however the choose deems the proof inadequate, the Justice Division can enchantment to the next courtroom.

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