Nonetheless, Rafiekian’s fortunes did a U-flip three months later when U.S. District Court docket Choose Anthony Trenga overturned the verdicts and ordered Rafiekian’s acquittal, ruling that the admissible proof within the case was not enough to maintain the jury’s obvious conclusion that the mission was performed on the behest of the Turkish authorities.
Trenga mentioned the proof of a tie to Turkish officers was too conjectural to eradicate affordable doubt within the case.
Nonetheless, all three appeals judges appeared to consider that the federal government had an honest circumstantial case against Rafiekian. One choose, James Wynn Jr., opined that direct proof of foreign authorities management would nearly at all times be onerous to come back by in a case alleging that work for a foreign authorities was made to seem like routine lobbying on behalf of a foreign enterprise.
“In the event you’re going to do a case like this, I’m considering, these will not be simple instances to show,” mentioned Wynn, an appointee of President Barack Obama. “You’ve acquired to rely on affordable inferences. Very seldom are you going to get the agent to come back up and testify, the nation has instructed me to do one thing and subsequently I’m working with them. In the event you’re going to do it, it’s going to occur on this manner.”
Wynn and different judges famous that the work the Flynn firm claimed it was doing for a Dutch firm was just about equivalent to a proposal Flynn’s crew and a Turkish nationwide, Ekim Alptekin, ready for Turkish officers simply earlier than purportedly embarking on the contract for Alptekin’s firm.
“That’s a fairly robust factor as a result of that appears fairly unhealthy,” Wynn added. “It’s the identical man and also you’re doing the identical stuff. … I don’t see how one can say the jury couldn’t join the 2.”
“It appears to me the parallel tasks are a part of the coincidental — a part of the circumstantial proof,” mentioned Choose Paul Niemeyer, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. “It’s all slightly humorous.”
James Tysse, an lawyer for Rafiekian, insisted that, until some form of espionage is concerned, prison costs shouldn’t stem from mere suspicion that Individuals are appearing on the behest of a foreign authorities.
“That was the federal government’s technique at trial, to counsel there was a whole lot of humorous issues happening, however finally they didn’t present he was appearing at Turkey’s path or Turkey’s management, as a result of that might require displaying that some foreign official was really concerned in passing alongside directions,” Tysse mentioned.
Jewish teams have sometimes expressed concern about aggressive enforcement of U.S. foreign agent legal guidelines as a result of Jewish Individuals typically foyer on problems with concern to Israel whereas additionally repeatedly participating with Israeli officers.
The appeals court docket arguments additionally raised the opportunity of one thing Flynn critics have been wanting to see comply with his presidential pardon final month: the previous nationwide safety adviser being pressured to testify underneath oath about his actions now that he not can invoke his proper against self-incrimination. Flynn was anticipated to be a witness against Rafiekian at his trial, however prosecutors ditched him on the final minute after an alleged shift in Flynn’s anticipated testimony led to an acrimonious row with Flynn’s new attorneys.
“If this case did return for a brand new trial, you can name [Flynn] now?” Wynn requested.
“Doubtlessly, your honor,” Tysse mentioned. “We couldn’t have referred to as him earlier than presumably as a result of he would have taken the Fifth, however doubtlessly, now that he’s been pardoned.”
In May, Rafiekian’s attorneys wrote to Lawyer Basic William Barr, asking for a evaluation of Rafiekian’s case in mild of Barr’s resolution to maneuver to drop a prison false-assertion case Particular Counsel Robert Mueller introduced against Flynn in 2017. Whereas the cost Flynn admitted to there was for an unrelated FBI interview, Flynn did seem to concede throughout his responsible plea that he’d submitted false info to the Justice Division in regards to the Turkey work.
Regardless of the request from Rafiekian’s protection, the Justice Division has pressed on with its efforts to revive the case against the California businessman, who served as a George W. Bush appointee on the board of the Export-Import Financial institution earlier than linking up with Flynn.
The appeals judges issued no resolution Friday. It was not clear from the argument session whether or not the panel will reinstate the responsible verdicts or ship the case again to Trenga, whereas permitting him to offer Rafiekian the brand new trial the choose mentioned he would grant if his acquittal of the defendant was overturned on attraction.
Two of the judges on the appeals panel expressed misgivings in regards to the equity of final 12 months’s trial. Trenga allowed in intensive rumour proof within the type of emails, whereas cautioning jurors about limits on use of that proof. He later concluded that the jury seemingly ignored his directions.
“What I’m involved with on this case is the entire rumour that was admitted,” mentioned Choose Barbara Keenan, an Obama appointee. “Choose Trenga is an efficient choose and I feel that he actually got here out of this trial very involved.”
Whether or not the federal government would search a second trial, with the potential wild card of Flynn testimony, is unclear.
Given Trump’s conviction that the Flynn prosecution was a political vendetta, Rafiekian — who served as an adviser to the Trump transition crew after the 2016 election — might search a pardon from Trump throughout his remaining 5 weeks in workplace. Rafiekian’s attorneys have declined to touch upon that risk.