Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Citigroup Is Sued For Discriminating Against 61-Year Old Black Man, Told He's Not A Fit


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22 – Jerome Cook is a 61-year old African American man who says Citigroup refused to hire him back on age and race discrimination. He has sued. 

 The complaint, docketed on June 22 after 5 pm in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York where Inner City Press found and immediately reported on it, recounts Cook's interviews on March 2, 2020 at 388 Greenwich Street. 

 Cook said Citigroup VP Swati Rao said she was surprised by his age, telling him, "You know most Senior Associates are 28 years old, don't you?"

Then after texting with someone she led him to the elevators, canceling two other scheduled interviews he had. He was told he was "not a fit." 

   Later, according to the complaint, Ciitgroup in-house counsel Adriana Barnette told him there were non-discriminatory reasons. He is seeking damages.  

The case is Cook v. Citigroup, Inc., 21-cv-5458 (Unassigned)


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Nonbinary Saba Sued For Gender X NY License Now Citing Gender Recognition Act, Stays Case


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22– Sander Saba sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his Department of Motor Vehicles as a nonbinary transgender New York resident who wants a driver's license that accurately reflects their nonbinary gender identity by using the gender marker "X." 

 On November 6, 2020 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Lewis J. Liman held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it. 

The governmental defendants wanted a total stay of discovery.

Judge Liman agreed but only partially. He will allow Saba through counsel to depose an official of the DMV. 

At first he said the questions should be sent to him in advance, then thought the better of it.

Let the State complain if they do not like the questions. He declined to delay the time to oppose until after the deposition.

On November 11, the DMV's Gregory Kline filed a declaration which changes his earlier statement based on which the State argued the case was moot. Kline has said that legacy computer system was being changed to obvious the need for a gender selection.

  Kline states that since October 29, "DMV has resolved to modify its existing system rather than replace the existing system in order to enable DMV to simultaneously focus efforts on expanding the availability of certain remove services that will eliminate the need for in-person DMV office visits... However, this change will not negative impact DMV's goal to allow DMV to create a license record without the need for an applicant to make a binary 'male' or 'female' gender selection." But he does not say how.

  On December 16 the State, by its Attorney General, moved to dismiss Saba's complaint, including an email offer that it made to give a manual license, not automated. The State says this is a new demand and that no live case or controversy remains.

On April 19, Judge Liman (after a full day of a bench trial involving Martin Kwok / Guo, which Inner City Press is also covering) held oral arguments. Inner City Press live tweeted, here:

Judge Liman is asking about the declaration(s) of Gregory Kline, Deputy Commissioner of NYS DMV. He says change to modernization project will not impact "goal to create a license record without the need for an applicant to make a binary male or female selection"

Cuomo's lawyer Andrew Amer is quoting the above.

Judge Liman: There's no evidence of what's needed for that aspect of the program, allow application without binary gender selection. Amer: Funds have been allocated... And that's entitled to deference.

 Judge Liman: And is Saba got the manually generated license today, how long with it last? Amer: Five years. And this automatic process would go live in that time frame... Until we modify our system, nothing can be done.

 NYS lawyer: There's a point at which doing manual [non-binary] licenses is not possible. Judge Liman: Would your positive be the same if the DMV had a question, Are you Christian or non-Christian? NYS lawyer Amer: We don't ask that.

NYS lawyer: The license will say x-gender, but our data base would still have a gender. So we give the plaintiff a letter on letterhead, to avoid confusion by the police officer.

 Judge Liman: The law doesn't allow me to distinguish here different kinds of Constitutional violations, of the Establishment Clauses vs Equal Protection. So why is this OK? NYS Lawyer: Because the policy has changed already. So the question is, What is possible?

Lambda Legal  says: Constitutional rights are not subject to the ebb and flow of politics. To the government, nothing is impossible. Now the state of Rhode Island, with 18 other states and DC, offer non-binary drivers licenses.

 Judge Liman: NYS says I should give deference... Lambda Legal: Not just because they are the government. Deference does not mean unquestioned belief in what they say. Ducker case, SDNY 2019

 Judge Liman says he will not be deciding today, he will take it under advisement.

NYS lawyer is closing by saying what other states do is not relevant to New York.

But then the New York State legislature on June 10 passed the Gender Recognition Act to amend NY Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 502(1). Citing that, the parties on June 22 filed to stay the action, contemplating its dismissal "shortly after the Implementation Date."

The case is Saba v. Cuomo et al., 20-cv-5859 (Liman)


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Hedge Fund Briber and Philanthropist Huberfeld Got 30 Months Overturned Now Gets 7 Months


By Matthew Russell Lee, Periscope video

NEW YORK CITY, June 22 – Four days after Norman Seabrook, former head of the NYC Corrections Officers union, was sentenced to 58 months in prison by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein for taking bribes to steer union money into the failed Platinum hedge fund.

 Platinum's Murray Huberfeld received a 30 month sentence for his role in the bribery. That was on February 12, 2019 and is described below.

On December 18, 2020, Huberfeld having succesfully appealed reappeared before another SDNY Judge, Lewis L. Liman. (Seabrook's case is still before Judge Hellerstein).  Huberfeld's lawyers were in email fight, conveyed to Judge Liman, with the COBA union about restitution.

On April 23, Huberfeld seeking a sentence of six months home confinement, filed additional redacted letters and articles, including that people still get COVID after vaccination, and Judge Jed S. Rakoff's NYRB article "Covid and the Courts."

 On June 22 Judge Liman held the sentencing. He began by recounting the history, noted by Inner City Press, and called the crime serious; the previously 30 month sentence was replaced by one of seven months, followed by a year of Supervised Release.

Watch this site.

This case is now US v. Huberfeld, 16-cr-467 (Liman).

  Back in February 2019 the physical SDNY courtroom of Judge Hellerstein was filled with Huberfeld's family and supporters, and the testimony even from the government was full of references to his donations, many of them anonymous. Huberfeld arranged for the search and discovered of a drowned boy in Australia. He rehabilitated houses in Moncie, New York for the large families characteristic of the Orthodox community - and some resold them for big profits. Huberfeld was also depicted as having another person take the registered representative test for him, and reached two settlements with the SEC.

  "Why do good people do bad things?" SDNY Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein mused, as he had on February 8 before passing sentence on Seabrook. He took a similar 10 minute break. Inner City Press rushed down to get its electronics and do a Periscope broadcast, here; a similarly descending clairvoyant predicted that "long winded" Hellerstein would come out at 30 months. And so it was. He initially ordered $19 million restitution then stayed that, too. Huberfeld's lawyers noted they would argue on appeal that only the $60,000 bribe money was the appropriate figure for restitution. They said Huberfeld's recited commitment to pay back $7 million to the union was based on him remaining free. Now he will remain free, at least pending appeal.

   Huberfeld's mother, who was in the courtroom, is a Holocaust survivor. Judge Hellerstein described her hiding under an animal trough and asked, How can people be so cruel? Huberfeld too teared up while addressing hte court, asking to be allowed to remain free to serve people for example through a soup kitchen program he has been working with. Judge Hellerstein called him one of the most nobel defendants to ever appear before him - then imposed the (delayed) 30 month sentence.

  On the government side prosecutor Martin Bell brought up former New York Knicks basketball player Charles Oakley, who had been in the courthouse supporting Normal Seabrook on February 8 (Inner City Press photos on Alamy here, Periscope below); he quoted Knicks coach Pat Riley's book about success being a danger for a team and said it applied to Huberfeld. This is a New York case we will continue to follow, along with other cases. On February 8, a victim's statement to the court cited what it called Seabrook's racist rant on YouTube.

   Afterward on Worth Street Inner City Press asked Seabrook about the YouTube video - actually, an audio file with an array of still photographs.  Seabrook told Inner City Press they doctored it to make him look bad. His (actual) answer on Periscope here - and here now audio file on YouTube, here.

  In the SDNY courtroom it was cognitive dissonance: Norman Seabrook who rose from poverty to head of a union with 10,000 members, who endorsed Michael Bloomberg; Norman Seabrook who asked for tens of thousands of dollars to steer union money into a Cayman Islands hedge fund which failed.

  Prosecutor Martin Bell referred to a Ferragamo bag visible in Seabrook's house for months. When Seabrook spoke he said it was a gift with cigars, taking a cigar out of his suit jacket.

Seabrook's lawyer Paul Shechtman cited Seabrook's work on the so-called feces bill to make throwing excrement at a corrections officer a felony. On the hand Seabrook was accused of threatening his board members with returning to work in a prison as punishment, and of going after anyone who dared run against or otherwise oppose him. Seabrook felt that it was his time to get paid, that he was bigger than the cause he began fighting for, Bell said.

Shechtman also spoke after the sentencing. Inner City Press asked him about Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein's seeming reversal of an initial position that it would be hard to leave Seabrook out on bail pending appeal. Shechtman replied affably that he had to win something, after the 58 month sentence.  Video here.

  An issue on a appeal will be whether Seabrook's second jury should have heard about the $19 million loss.

 Inner City Press asked Shechtman about the restitution, how much would be paid by hedge funders Murray Huberfeld,  Jona Rechnitz and perhaps (Judge Hellerstein indicated) Jeremy Reichberg. Shechtman told Inner City Press, If Norman wins $19 million in the lottery, we'll have about that. For now, $2500 is due in 60 days, through the SDNY Clerk, for the union. We'll have more on this.

   Exiting the courthouse after Seabrook, with a bag of Utz potato chips and a copy of the Daily News was New York Knicks icon Charles Oakley. He said that there are others who need to be locked up as well, and that the Knicks need better players. There was no rebuttal. Periscope video here.

Upcoming in the SDNY is a recently-filed complaint by the Bangladesh Central Bank for the $81 million hacking of its funds, which were then wired through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, a case that Inner City Press will cover. Times change. Watch this site.

Avenatti On Nike Wants Delay to Late August of Sentencing, Now US Attorney Opposes


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Song Radio
BBC - Decrypt - LightRead - Honduras - Source

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22 – When after three days of jury selection the trial of Michael Avenatti for allegedly extorting Nike began, Assistant US Attorney Robert Sobelman told the selected jurors that Avenatti was supposed to look out for the interests of his client, but he did not - he had a weapon, social media.  More on that first day on Patreon here.

On June 21, Avenatti's lawyers wrote in asking to postpone his June 30 sentencing to late August, citing a request for $1 million in restitution for Nike to be filed "in camera" - this while Avenatti seals his application for free counsel, and wants media banned from voir dire sidebars -- and because he has his California trial on July 13, for four weeks.

Now on June 22, the US Attorney's Office has opposed the request for delaying, saying it would mean Avenatti was being sentenced 1.5 years after conviction. They quote a decision by Judge Friendly, about a defendant who "stood mute, gambling on an acquittal while holding this issues in reserve," alluding to Avenatti's motion to compel. Watch this site.

On June 18 - Juneteenth (observed) when most of the SDNY was closed - Avenatti's Federal Defenders filed in the Stormy Daniels case, to preclude her WhatsApps with Avenatti: "The government’s opposition to Michael Avenatti’s pre-trial motions fundamentally misapprehends the core issues at play and urges the Court to deny Mr. Avenatti relief without even an evidentiary hearing. But notwithstanding the government’s protestations, there remain legitimate concerns about how and why the government obtained incomplete and inauthentic versions of Stephanie Clifford’s WhatsApp communications with Mr. Avenatti, and why it also failed to acquire other equally material communications and relevant electronically-stored information from Ms. Clifford’s cell phone. The defense has also never waived an objection to the government’s use of a “filter team” to search of Mr. Avenatti’s iCloud account—which contained attorney-client communications and attorney work-product relevant to Mr. Avenatti’s defense preparation across his three criminal cases—and respectfully submits that the issue demands further scrutiny, particularly since a court-appointed “special master” conducted the privilege reviews of seized devices and files belonging to two other high-profile attorneys investigated in this district... Separately, the government’s opposition to its prompt disclosure of statements made by three key witnesses (Ms. Clifford, Luke Janklow, and Judy Regnier) misses the crux of Mr. Avenatti’s concern: that the government’s perspective on what constitutes Brady material is far too conservative, and that delaying the disclosure of materials bearing on Ms. Clifford’s veracity prejudices Mr. Avenatti’s defense preparation. In particular, and because her testimony and competence as a witness is central to the government’s entire case, Ms. Clifford’s statements in the government’s possession, custody or control about her book deal and relationship with Michael Avenatti are plainly material to the issue of guilt and should be disclosed without further delay. And given Mr. Janklow’s and Ms. Regnier’s intimate involvement with Ms. Clifford over the time period at issue in the indictment, the Court should at least review in camera these witnesses’ statements in the government’s possession, custody, or control to determine whether they are helpful to the defense." Full filing on Patreon here.

 Jump to June 9, 2021, when after conviction Avenatti filed his Nike sentencing submission, asking for "a sentence of no more than eighteen (18) months - six months in prison followed by 12 months of home confinement." His submission cites, among other things Guantanamo, Epstein, El Chapo, and Obama not ending torture.

  Now in later June, the US Attorney's Office has filed victim impact statements from Gary Franklin and from Nike. They say Probation recommends 96 months, and they say "very substantial." The guideline is 135 to 168 months. More to follow - watch this site.

 On August 7, 2020 in the Stormy Daniels case, Avenatti had motions heard by U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Jesse M. Furman. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here.

This case is US v. Avenatti, 19-cr-374 (Furman).

The Nike case is US v. Avenatti, 19-cr-373 (Gardephe).


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Guilty Verdict On DEA Officer"Entrapped" on Grindr After 404(b) Ruling in SDNY


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22 – Frederick Scheinin was charged, and now convicted, for child pornography. He is, or was, a DEA diversion investigator.

On April 16, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Lorna G. Schofield held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it.

  The defense said it is difficult to work with Scheinin while he is incarcerated amid COVID.

On May 7 SDNY Judge Jed S. Rakoff, to whom the case has been re-assigned, held a proceeding. The June 16 trial date was re-affirmed - and Inner City press has been covering it, including on Juneteenth, when the government's main witness was cross examined.

   She, a 32 year old law enforcement officer, impersonated a 14 year old boy on Grindr. Scheinin asked her/him about meeting on the Staten Island Ferry, and (much) worse. The defense argument was, Scheinin knew she was an adult.

 But this opens the door to 404(b) evidence, including photos that the defense on June 18 said is too prejudicial. It will be emailed to Judge Rakoff, who has promised fast rulings and a draft charge by midday Monday.

And now on Tuesday, June 22: "the conviction in Manhattan federal court of FREDERICK L. SCHEININ for attempted production of child pornography, attempted receipt of child pornography, and attempted enticement of a minor...  Attempted production of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; attempted receipt of child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and attempted enticement of a minor carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and maximum sentence of life in prison.  SCHEININ is scheduled to be sentenced on September 23, 2021, at 4:00 pm."

And Judge Rakoff to his credit signed a medical attention order: "MEDICAL ATTENTION FORM as to Frederick L. Scheinin. (Signed by Judge Jed S. Rakoff on 6/22/2021)."

The case is US v. Scheinin, 20-cr-133 (Rakoff)


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Man Running Ball Pond Capital In Apartment on Warren Street Is Sued In SDNY


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22 – Sri Prayal Wijegoonaratna has been running Ball Pond Capital out of his home at 38 Warren Street in lower Manhattan. Both have been sued by the Brian Newberry and the Newbery Family Trust for $1,165,000 agreed to be paid as a settlement.    

     On June 21, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Ronnie Abrams held a proceeding. Inner City Press covered it. 

  Judge Abrams noted that the parties' Case Management Plan proposals are quite different. She offered the services of the assigned SDNY Magistrate Judge, and said she wished them luck in settling. Again.

If not, depositions are due December 20, with another status conference set for October 29.

The case is Newberry et al v. Wijegoonaratna et al., 21-cv-2707 (Abrams)


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After Honduras JOH Brother Tony Gets Life + 30 Yrs, Geovanny Fuentes Appeals Are Denied


By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Song Filing
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 22 – Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez took a briefcase of cash and said he would stuff drugs up the noses of the gringos, a jury was told on March 16, 2020.  Inner City Press live tweeted it, morning here and then the afternoon, about the video(s), here and below. Geovanny Fuentes was found guilty, and his lawyer told Inner City Press he thinks JOH will be or has already been indicted.

  Geovanny Fuentes submitted motions for acquittal and a new trial. On June 22, Judge Castel denied them, 33 page order on Patreon here; from the docket: "OPINION AND ORDER as to Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez... CONCLUSION: The Court has considered all of the arguments raised by defendant, including those not expressly addressed herein. Defendant's motions for a judgment of acquittal under Rule 29 and for a new trial under Rule 33 are DENIED. The Clerk is directed to terminate the motions. (Doc 316). SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge P. Kevin Castel on 6/22/21)."

 He's set for sentencing on August 31, 2021.

On June 10, Geovanny Fuentes asked to push his sentencing from June 24 into September, and says the US agrees: "the defendant Geovanny Fuentes  Ramirez to request an adjournment of the sentencing currently scheduled to take place before  Your Honor on June 24, 2021. The adjournment is necessary to enable counsel to obtain letters of  support and other information relevant to sentencing and to provide counsel with sufficient time to  prepare a sentencing submission on behalf of Mr. Fuentes Ramirez.  Counsel received the draft of the presentence investigation report on May 24 and  because of the difficulty of scheduling a visit with Mr. Fuentes Ramirez and an interpreter at the  MCC, was not able to review the report with him until June 8. We have been in touch with Mr.  Fuentes Ramirez's family to request letters of support on his behalf, but those letters have not yet  arrived. Given the language and cultural barriers, we anticipate that we will need at least another  two months to obtain the letters and other information we need and to prepare a sentencing  submission. Accordingly, we are requesting that the Court adjourn the sentencing to a date in the  last week of August convenient to the Court and the parties. Alternatively, the parties are  available the afternoons of September 9 or 10.  I have discussed this matter with counsel for the Government who advised me that  the Government has no objection to the requested adjournment."

On June 11, Judge Castel ruled: "Set/Reset Hearings as to Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez: Sentencing set for 8/31/2021 at 02:00 PM in Courtroom 11D, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007 before Judge P. Kevin Castel. (ap)."
Watch this site.

 On May 10, in the parallel case of US v. Lobo,  Honduras police officer Ludwig Criss Zelaya Romero was being sentenced by Judge Schofield. Inner City Press live tweeted it here:

Inner City Press video stand up afterward here.

This case is US v. Lobo, et al., 15-cr-174 (Schofield)

  On April 26, the lawyer for co-defendant Otto Salguero Morales wrote to Judge Castel complaining he hasn't been given the recorded calls and emails "obtained in the Giovanni [sic] Fuentes case." So he says no trial date can be set. This while the UK sanctions Oscar Ramon Najera. What is the US State Department doing? We have asked them, and the US Mission to the UN, without answer.

Now on April 29, Otto Salguero-Morales' lawyer has followed up with a motion for "random reassignment" of his case, away from Judge Castel. He asks why his case was linked to that of Tony Hernandez, while Leonel Devis Rivera-Maradiaga and Alexander Ardon-Soriano have different judges. He questions the process of superseding indictments. Now there's also a Motion For Reassignment of Indictment . Document, filed by Ronald Enrique Salguero Portillo. Watch this site.

  On April 23, Fuentes' lawyers filed a motion to set aside the verdict or for a new trial, arguing among other things that Judge Castel erred in permitting Leonel Rivera to testify to statement made by Metro and to Fuentes' alleged statements in the MCC. Inner City Press tweeted photo here. The US Attorney's Office immediately asked for an extension until May 21 to response - and got it. Watch this site.

  On March 16, JOH's brother Tony Hernandez was belatedly up for sentencing before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge P. Kevin Castel, who oversaw his trial leading to guilty verdicts in October 2019. Judge Castel sentenced him to life plus thirty years and said in prison he should reflect on how to help his family "and [his] country" - perhaps a reference to telling the US government and then juries what else he knows. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here  and below. The ensuing celebrations, across Worth Street from the SDNY courthouse and in Honduras, Inner City Press dubbed the "Castel-ebracion."

Now on April 12, two more defendants in the case had a status conference before Judge Castel. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here:

Judge Castel has a proceeding on Otto Rene Salguero Morales and Ronald Enrique Salguero Portillo.

Lawyer for Ronald Enrique Salguero Portillo says she wants more discovery information, all she's been given is testimony of a cooperator, Ardon. Says she needs time to meet with the defendant at the MCC jail.

Judge Castel: Let's hear from the US. Why haven't you answered the defense's emails about discovery? Asst US Attorney: We spoke in December.

Lawyer: I wrote to them in January, nothing heard back. What is my client charged with? It can't just be what Mr. Ardon says.

Lawyer: This client is a Guatemalan national. My other client [in Lobo case before Judge Schofield] was a member of the Honduras National Police.

Judge Castel: Does the government think there is a potential conflict? AUSA: No view at this time.

Judge Castel (sounding frustrated) - We'll get to the bottom of this - did the government send you the discovery from the Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado case or not?

Lawyer: Partially. We didn't get discovery about the videos, nor copies of documents

Judge Castel: I'm wondering if I've been lied to, by one side or the other.  Now lawyer for Otto Rene Salguero Morales asks for discovery from the Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez trial.

Judge Castel: So when will this case be ready for trial? Lawyer for Otto Rene Salguero Morales: I can't be sure yet. I'll be in New York next week.

 Judge Castel: OK, we'll get together again in six weeks. May 26 at 10:30 am.

Interim update: this morning's proceeding was technical and proceeding, but the case involves not only Presidential brother Tony Hernandez, but also... El Chapo. A photo of a filing from the case is here.

OApril 7, Tony Hernandez filed notice of appeal to the Second Circuit - still with a lawyer paid by the US taxpayers, and even the $505 appeal fee waived: "Appeal Remark as to Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado re: [311] Notice of Appeal - Final Judgment. $505.00 Appeal Fee Waived. Attorney CJA."

 Also on April 7, another proceeding, this time in Judge Castel's own, smaller courtroom. Inner City Press live tweeted it here:

Mauricio Hernandez Pineda is in yellow prison jump suit. Inner City Press is alone in the gallery.  It has begun.

Mauricio Hernandez Pineda's lawyer Mr Leader has represented Zavala Velasquez in US v Lobo. Will he waive the conflict?

But first: he is 49, gets treatment for cholesterol. Brother passed away last week.

 US says both were members of same conspiracy. But Mauricio Hernandez Pineda waives any conflict of interest.

Proceeding is over. Next date is June 8, 2:30 pm, time excluded with US citing possible "pre-trial disposition" talks, which is standard

  On April 5, Inner City Press began asking what has happened with the 2018 indictment of Midence Oqueli Martinez Turcios? Since July 2018, there is nothing in the docket, although Honduran media reported he had turned himself in to the DEA. Where is he? Who might he testify against? Indictment and more on Patreon here.

 On April 2, with the indictment of El Tigre Bonilla still listed as "under seal," Inner City Press published the indictment on its DocumentCloud, here. Why is this still listed as sealed? Watch this site.

From March 30: Judge Castel: Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, you are remanded to be imprisoned for life on Count 1... & 30 years on Count 2, consecutive. Forfeiture of $138.5 million. No fine.

Judge Castel: You have the right to appeal, including as a poor person. I hope that while you are in person you will reflect on your life and what you've done and turn your life around. Perhaps you can do some good for your family and your country.

 Defense lawyer Brill: I will file a notice of appeal, and then be relieved. Judge Castel: We are adjourned.

A question still: Does the right to access to Federal court proceedings extend to listen-only telephone lines, in the time of COVID and beyond? Should it?

 The question has been further raised in the ongoing Honduras narco-trafficking case US v. Geovanny Fuentes, which Inner City Press has been covering in-person in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where it is "in-house press."

   On the morning of March 13, Inner City Press filed a challenge to the cut-off of audio access to the US v. Fuentes trial, citing the First Amendment, COVID and real-world politics, see here and below.

  Late on the evening of March 14, the US Attorney's Office filed a three page letter into the docket, specifically arguing the the call-in line be eliminated for two entire Witnesses and everything they say. US Attorney's Office's letter, now uploaded on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

 Inner City Press has immediately responded in opposition, here, stating among other things that "the US Attorney's Office seeks to specifically ban public access to two of their Witnesses, while saying that a transcript would be available at some unspecified date afterwards. Given that the Office has yet to unseal improperly redacted portions of their filings, there is little reason to have confidence in the speed of transcription, or that such transcripts would not be too expensive for the public or media. 

Inner City Press after its first filing waited nine hours, including this song, here, to report about it. Full first letter on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

  Inner City Press itself obeys all existing rules and is grateful for the additional access as in-house media (particularly since it is banned from covering the UN, which now Constitutional rights such as the First Amendment exist).

  But others have rights too - including journalists and regular citizens of Honduras. If the SDNY prosecutors are going to exercises essentially universal jurisdiction for any wire transfer that passes through lower Manhattan, how ever briefly, they should not oppose access to their trials by those impacted, for better and worse.

Judge Castel is a good judge, in Inner City Press' experience. When petitioned he has ordered the unsealing of certain court documents, in a North Korea crypto-currency conference case and the tech / child sex sentencing of Peter Bright former of ArsTechnica, both of which Inner City Press covered and requested. And Judge Castel is certainly in the mainstream in his March 12 psoition. But should it be rethought? Is there a right? Should there be? Watch this site.

The case is US v. Diaz, 15-cr-379 (Castel).


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