A federal judge has overturned a conviction against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s former business partner Bijan Rafiekian, who was previously convicted of illegally lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of the Turkish government, according to a report.
Judge Anthony Trenga on Tuesday ordered a new trial for Rafiekian, who co-founded the Flynn Intel Group, after he determined that prosecutors did not present sufficient evidence that Rafiekian knowingly operated as a Turkish government agent and intentionally failed to notify U.S. officials about his work, according to Politico.
Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, also found that the jury was not “adequately instructed” on the use of hearsay statements, Flynn’s role, or the knowledge required to convict Rafiekian on one of the charges.
“There is no substantial evidence that Rafiekian agreed to operate subject to the direction or control of the Turkish government. There is no evidence of any statements by Rafiekian that would allow a rational juror to find that Rafiekian had agreed to operate as an agent of the Turkish government, or that he thought he was acting as a Turkish agent.
Rafiekian is a 67-year-old Iranian-American businessman and former board member for the U.S. Export-Import Bank who was an adviser on the Trump transition team.
His lawyer praised the court’s decision in a statement to the Hill. “Bijan and his family are relieved and looking forward to getting on with their lives,” Mark MacDougall said. “We are all grateful to the Court. Our system is still sturdy and, in this case, justice has been done.”
It is not yet clear how the ruling could affect Flynn, who is slated to be sentenced on December 18. Flynn could benefit if the judge presiding over his case, Judge Emmet Sullivan, sees Trenga’s ruling as an indiction there was nothing illegal about the work that Rafiekian and Flynn did for Turkey or failing to register as Turkish agents.
The ruling on Rafiekian is a loss for former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to Politico. It comes after a jury on September 4 found former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig not guilty for lying about acting as a foreign agent for Ukraine on a legal project arranged by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
“The losses in both cases are also sour notes for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mueller’s office was deeply involved in probing both the Rafiekian and Craig cases, but eventually transferred the matters off to other prosecutors,” Politico‘s Josh Gerstein wrote.
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