US judge to rule in days on FIFA trial date

Eduardo Li of Costa Rica, leaves the Court of the Eastern District in Brooklyn New York on April 13, 2016

New York (AFP) – The US federal judge overseeing the sweeping FIFA corruption scandal said Wednesday that he would rule within days whether to set a date for trial while evidence still pours in.

US government prosecutors have proposed what they call an “aggressive but achievable” schedule that would work towards jury selection beginning on February 27, 2017 in New York.

But underscoring the enormity of the case, in which eight defendants in the United States have pleaded not guilty and extradition requests are pending for another nine, Judge Raymond Dearie heard objections from defense lawyers during a 25-minute hearing Wednesday.

Lawyers for one defendant said the February date was “just not workable,” while another called for an accelerated schedule.

The legal team of Costa Rica’s Eduardo Li proposed at least a one-month delay, estimating that the amount of data in the case ranged from 700 million to 900 million pages.

Under the government’s proposed schedule, evidence in the case would be submitted to the court by June 30.

But prosecutors admitted Wednesday that while they expected to turn over evidence currently in their possession by then, they expected more data to come in before and after June 30.

Dearie said he had an obligation to move ahead when the eight defendants, who are under house arrest in the United States, were under “considerable restraint” away from home and presumed innocent.

“I will have an order out before the end of the week,” he said, with reference to setting a trial date.

Six of the eight defendants attended the hearing, sitting in the jury box with other seats in court taken up by the large number of lawyers.

US marketing executive Aaron Davidson and Paraguay’s Juan Angel Napout were absent. In court were Brazil’s Jose Maria Marin, Li, Hector Trujillo and Brayan Jimenez from Guatemala, Rafael Esquivel from Venezuela and Costas Takkas, a dual British-Greek citizen.

The court scheduled the next hearing for August 3.

In all, 40 officials and marketing executives accused of soliciting and receiving tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks in a case that has sparked an unprecedented crisis at FIFA.

Fifteen individuals have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with US prosecutors in exchange for a possible reduction in sentence. 


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