On a freezing December afternoon on Friday 13th at about 12:30 pm the jury announced their verdict against Richard Ammar Chichakli. Chichakli was found guilty on all nine counts. One count of conspiring to violate international sanctions, one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud and six counts of wire fraud. Richard Chichakli will be sentenced on March 14th, 2014.
Since I was unable to be in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict, I relied on information directly from Chichakli. Here is what he wrote me:
Good day George Thank you for your message, and here’s the update
The decision was rendered about 12:30, and it is all as expected; guilty on all counts. Sincerely Richard
In a letter to judge Pauley dated to December 11th 2013, Chichakli filed a motion of mistrial to the judge based on emails of at least two jurors complaining about him and dragging the trial out as long as he could. Chichakli mentioned that the prosecutors presented over 600 slides in three separate presentations in addition to the slides I counted seventeen witness’ presented by the government during the trial. I understand the legal angle that the burden of the proof is on the prosecution. However, isn’t it is a reasonable assertion that if there are many witness’ then there could potentially be a lot of cross-examination? Apparently the jury didn’t see it that way and solely blamed Chichakli.
[Read the motion here: Richard Chichakli’s Motion to Declare Mistrial]
Chichakli in another email to me elaborated and gave some insight into exactly what was said by some of the jurors. As well as pointing out that juror number 10 whom was also elected the jury foreman, stated that the trial must end by Friday because his income would be negatively impacted. That turned out to be the exact day that the guilty verdict was rendered against Chichakli. Here is what Chichakli wrote me:
Everything we have seen was leading to the conclusion that was received, that’s why it was no surprise at all. It was difficult to operate with the court refusal of admitting evidence, the refusal to allow testimony from witnesses we needed, the unbalanced prejudicial latitude favoring the prosecution, and finally the acceptance of the juries prejudice against the defendant.
I think until receiving copy of that e-mail which was sent to the judge by jurors number 9 and number 10, I; for some reason, start feeling as if there was a chance for justice. Then, the jury email stating:
“There is serious discontent in the jury room concerning the longer than expected trial, saying the defendant trying to drag the case as long as he could while everyone else is suffering”
The reasons this email was signal of prejudice and cause for mistrial is due to: ——————————————————————————————— 1-The discontent in the jury room means that the jurors were discussing the case; this is a violation of the court instruction 2-The jury; collectively, are blaming the defendant alone while accepting the 792-slides presented by the gov over 5 days 3-The jury have obviously made a decision already evident by saying “The defendant is dragging the case” 4-The jury expressed that they are suffering; whatever that means, retaliation is an expected response to suffering 5- Discontent in the jury room; again, means more than one juror – the jury room holds 12
The strange thing that the second e-mail was received from juror-10 also complaining about the lengthy trial, and stating that he cannot serve past today-Friday; the guilty verdict day because that would hurt his income. That very juror was the foreperson who seemed very proud while reading the verdict.
Chichakli’s trial has generated very little press coverage outside of a few media outlets. Over the last twenty-four hours almost every world-wide media outlet has published a story on Chichakli’s conviction. Most reports are almost identically reading more like a scripted press release as opposed to any actual news coverage or reporting. Ironically I have seen many news publications with this quote or similar variation, “His [Chichakli’s] case has raised tensions in already frigid ties between the United States and Russia.” I say ironic because the interest that I observed from Russia has been somewhere between little or none. In fact, Viktor Bout seems to be fading from the media headlines in Russia and is becoming a mostly forgotten topic. Chichakli is an American-Syrian citizen arrested and then extradited from Australia to the States. I don’t see any direct Russian connection nor any noted interest from the Russian government nor their media.
This case has been anything but usual. The jury has rendered their verdict and the sentencing will be on March 14th, 2014. However, somehow I don’t think the case is over. If I was gambling man, I’d bet big that Chichakli will be looking at the appellate court in the near future.
Emotions are running extremely high in this strange and curious case of USA vs. Richard Chichakli. It is not surprising, with the trial in its fourth week, that jurors complained about the length of the trial. Jurors number 9 and 10 said enough is enough in emails to the judge. One juror said that their job is going to train and hire a replacement due to their long absence. After hearing this Chichakli demanded a mistrial saying that now the jury is biased against him. The judge refused.
Here is what happened today in Chichakli’s own words:
Today was the end of the witnesses and taking of evidence. The whole thing turned into mess from the set go in the morning which started with receiving copies of two emails sent by two different juror complaining about the defendant taking too much time. The Email stated in its first line:
“There is a discontent in the jury room with the way the defendant is dragging the case as long as he could”
The other email also complained about the longer than expected trial and blames the defendant “based on our discussions” and ours is the jury. I immediately moved to have the case declared a Mistrial, and the judge immediately denied the motion, and subsequently he went after me on personal level saying that I caused the extended trial and he never seen more boring trial, and etc. Amazing stuff, unrealistically amazing.
So we are sat for tomorrow closing arguments.
Chichakli’s frustration and emotions flared and Chichakli is apparently not happy that the government brought seventeen witness’ to the stand compared to his paltry four witness’. I say paltry because about a dozen witness’ that Chichakli wanted to testify were nullified by the judge. However, the judge has stated to the jury on more than one occasion that “the defendant is under absolutely no obligation to bring forth witness’, the burden of proof is up to the prosecutors.” The judge whom has been extremely patiently throughout this long trial also seemed frustrated. Judge Pauley stated today to Chichakli that Monday was the “most painful in my twenty-five year career. ” I was not in the courtroom yesterday. Therefore I am guessing that since Al Monica was the governments final witness and the judge denied Chichakli’s request for several other DEA and FBI agents to testify, that he was trying to questioning him as extensively as possible. But that is just speculation on my part.
Today Chichakli called Department of Justice employee John Cox III whom he wanted to testify to the fact that he gave Chichakli permission to leave the U.S. back in 2005. Cox said that he could not detain Chichakli nor deny him the right to leave the country since there was no arrest warrant, merely an investigation. Chichakli’s ex-wife Gloria Chichakli also testified. They had not seen each other since 2005 when Chichakli left the States.
Tomorrow on December 11th, 2013 at 9:45 am the government will begin its closing argument or summation. They indicated to the judge that it should last about one hour forty-five minutes. Chichakli indicated that he would need about two and a half hours. However, it is still not clear whom will deliver the defense’s summation. Chichakli late in the day said that he was finished defending himself. Whether or not this was simply emotion or after being incarcerated and defending himself in a four week trial pro-se against the U.S. government and their legal team has in fact left him emotionally and physically spent? So we will not know until tomorrow whether Chichakli whom has handled his case in its entirety will deliver his own summation to the jury or if it will be his back up counsel Mr. Kirton.
Just a reminder for the first part of the trial Chichakli was in solitary confinement without access to email, phone calls or any communications whatsoever outside of Mr. Kirton visiting him in jail. Upon hearing this the judge ordered the Bureau of Prisons [BOP] to move him into general population as well as ordering OFAC to unblock his funds sent to him by his sister so that he could make phone calls. As late as last week Chichakli stated on record that the only Kosher meals provided to him by the prison were frozen and the U.S. Marshals denied him access to a microwave. The judge asked him at the end of that day if he ate and Chichakli stated that he had a piece of bread. The judge sternly told the prosecution to make sure that the defendant is provided with a meal that he can eat.
After the defense finishes their summation then the prosecutors get a 2nd chance called a rebuttal summation. The reason for this is that it is solely up to the prosecution to prove Chichakli’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Once that is completed then in my opinion is the most important part of the trial. It is the judges instructions to the jury on how to interpret the law. This is extremely important because in this case Chichakli is being charged with breaking Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] sanctions and International Emergency Economic Powers Act [IEEPA] laws. According to all the witness’ that testified including Molly Miller whom works for OFAC the laws are open to interpretation. Chichakli, his back up counsel Mr. Kirton and OFAC expert attorney Hal Eren all disagreed with Molly Miller’s testimony and interpretation of the law. Chichakli wanted to have another OFAC employee testify but the judge ruled against it. The judge stated that he will interpret the law for the jury.
Monday December 9th, 2013 11:00 am
Until today I have attended everyday of the Richard Chichakli trial in its entirety. Just to be crystal clear, Chichakli at this very moment is continuing his cross examination of Al Monica whom is the governments seventeenth and final witness. Mr. Monica is employed as a contractor at Booz Allen Hamilton and currently working for the DEA’s Special Operation Division more commonly referred to as SOD. According to Chicakli’s latest email he will call several more witness’, here is what he wrote me:
“On Monday I will also have my Ex-Wife Gloria testifying, My Ex-Partner William Riggs, and John Cox, the DOJ official who granted me the permission to leave in 2005. The trial should be done by Wednesday and it is up to the Jury from that point. That is all the summary for now, and I will keep you posted.”
Before I go into more detail about Mr. Monica’s testimony, I want to back up to last week. Specifically last Thursday December 5th, 2013 when Chichakli called his second witness Tami Loehrs, whom was deemed an expert witness. Ms. Loehrs is a computer forensic analyst at her firm, Loehrs & Associates located in Tucson, Arizona and has been in business for approximately 14 years since 1999.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, prosecutor Christian Everdell indicated to the judge that he was not happy that Ms. Loehrs was interrupting the prosecutions case. Everdell said that he didn’t think it was fair that the defense’s expert witness interrupt Ms. Seidsma whom was the governments expert computer forensic witness. Mrs. Loehrs couldn’t testify later in the week due to schedule conflicts for other trials and the judge previously agreed to let her interrupt the governments witness due to the defendant being incarcerated as well as having limited resources. Everdell suggested a compromise to the judge, that their expert witness, Ms. Seidsma be allowed to sit at the attorney’s table inside the courtroom during Ms. Loehrs testimony. Mr. Everdell had also previously raised concerns to the judge of not having enough time to prepare for the cross-examination of the defense’s expert witness Ms. Loehrs. Thus allowing Ms. Seidsma to hear Ms. Loehrs testimony would allow the prosecution to better prepare for the cross-examination. Judge Pauley stated that he thought that was a very sensible and fair compromise and Chichakli had no objections and thus it was allowed.
Thursday December 5th, 2013 at 10:05 am the jury entered and then Ms. Loehrs. After Ms. Loehrs briefly described her credentials and experience Chichakli began questioning her. Chichakli asked her about ‘hash values’ as compared to the ‘size of data’ comparison in forensic analysis. The reason Chichakli raised this question was that the Royal Thai police seized Viktor Bout’s laptop in March 2008 and it was stated by the prosecution that a forensic copy of the original laptop was made. However, it came out in testimony during the trial that the DEA’s forensic analyst compared the size of Bout’s laptop with a forensic copy via the ‘data size’ method. Much of the evidence presented in Bout’s trial that led to his conviction as well as a lot of evidence in Chichakli’s trial presented in the courtroom was allegedly taken from Bout’s laptop.
Ms. Loehrs when asked by Chichakli how can you authenticate the DEA’s forensic copy of Bout’s laptop with the original via the ‘data size’ method [as compared to the hash value method], she answered, “you can’t.” Loehrs continued, “there is no way to verify size or data, you absolutely can not verify data. It is “not an acceptable method [referring to the ‘data size’ method] because it is not accurate.”
Chichakli continued questioning the witness. Asking that if you replaced a photo of myself with my 100 year old grandmother and the data of each image was exactly the same, would it alter the size of the data on the computer. Loehrs answered that you can add and / or delete many files and as long as they are the same file sizes that total data size of the computer would not change.
At 10:45 am Christian Everdell for the government begins cross-examining the witness. He was fairly tame asking Ms. Loehrs if she had forensically evaluated the evidence in this particular case. Everdell also asked her if she had any evidence if the forensic evidence presented in this case was manipulated or altered, she stated “I have no idea. She stated she had no evidence that it was authentic or tampered with, she couldn’t say either way. Chichakli asked a few additional questions on re-direct examination to try to hammer home his previous points of the hash value being the only valid and accurate method in forensic analysis. At 11:23 am during Everdell’s re-cross of Ms. Loehrs, things got very nasty. Everdell attacked her character by asking her if she remembers posting a 2010 FaceBook post demeaning the FBI? Ms. Loehrs smiled and chuckled slightly and stated, “yes I remember that post.” Everdell then continued and got more vicious and started questioning several previous trials that Loehrs testified as a witness. Everdell pointed out at least a half-dozen examples and negative reactions to Ms. Loehrs previous court testimonies. She remained dignified and composed during this verbal assault and one of her last responses in reply to Everdell was, “that is what happens to you when you testify against and question the techniques and methods of forensic analysis used by law enforcement, they sometimes say bad things about you.”
Ms. Loehrs testimony ended almost exactly at 1:00 pm just in time for the lunch break. After lunch, at 2:00 pm Chichakli continued his cross-examination of the prosecutions 16th witness, Ms. Seidsma whose testimony was interrupted by Ms. Loehrs. About thirty minutes later Ms. Siedsma was excused and the governments 17th and final witness took the stand at 2:32 pm. During Al Monica’s initially testimony he stated that he is a contractor working for the DEA’s SOD. The judge stopped both the prosecutor Ian McGinley and Mr. Monica and said wait, who do you work for? Monica then stated that he was a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton hired by the DEA’s SOD. The judge later stated when the jury was on a break that the fact that Monica wasn’t directly working for the DEA almost slipped past him. He expressed his displeasure to the prosecution as to the way they presented their witness to the court.
Monica’s testimony was almost exclusively a slide presentation that also included a timeline. Chichakli objected to the entire slideshow and it was overruled by the judge. After the second slide Chichakli’s standby counsel Mr. Kirton said, “Your honor, I know the court has previously ruled on this but we object. We object to all of it.” The judge then called another sidebar [ an area in front of or next to the judge’s bench away from the witness stand and the jury box, where lawyers are called to speak confidentially with the judge out of earshot of the jury].
The judge said that the slide show was closing argument material. He actually removed slide one from evidence and it seemed to me that the judge almost considered not allowing the entire slide show which the government argued to keep it in evidence. After another sidebar, when the prosecution resumed in a very brisk manner almost flying through the slide presentation. Based on the previous two slide shows presented by the prosecution which was presented at a snails pace, the witness Monica was reading so fast that the court reporter had to ask him to read slower.
In Viktor Bout’s trial there were very few sidebars, in fact on one occasional when Bout’s lawyer Albert Dayan asked to approach the bench, judge Scheindlin said, “Yes but don’t make a habit of it.” I have been told by reporters covering trials for years that every judge is different. In terms of sidebars judge Pauley is much more liberal, in fact he calls them many times, if I had to guess how many sidebars there have been during this trial, I would say close to thirty. However, this trial is unique and highly unusual I have no idea if judge Pauley would call this many sidebars if Chichakli was not defending himself. One thing is apparent, he has been extremely fair and patient with Chichakli inside the courtroom, and in my opinion going out of his way to help him with his legal limitations since he is representing himself with no prior legal experience.
However, I do know for a fact that Chichakli would argue that the court has been very unfair in what it has allowed to be used as evidence in testimony and especially in the case of the allowance of witness’ that he requested to testify. Chichakli has stated very clearly on numerous occasions that he feels that about a dozen of his witness’ being denied by the court to testify is completely unfair and denies him a fair trial. The next several excerpts are taken verbatim directly from Chichakli’s emails, some are to others where I was cc’d and the rest were sent to me directly.
Good day [name intentionally left blank]: Thank you for your message. The trial is going as usual, with the usual denial of witnesses and documents. Nothing new, just about the same but with different witnesses.
On top of the denial of witness I am as of last week, neither allowed to bring-up or reference my US intelligence service nor allowed to ask witnesses about the subject all together. I am also not allowed to ask witnesses regarding my earlier discussion with the government, it is a strange way of conducting fair trial …. the least to say.
This is an excerpt of a very recent letter to the judge by Chichakli asking him to reconsider his decision on whether or not to allow Department of Justice employee Adam Szubin to testfy. the ful letter can be read here: Richard Chichakli’s Letter to the Judge for Reconsideration of a Potential Witness
IN THE INTEREST OF JUSTICE, EQUITY, DUE PROCESS and FOR THE PURPOSE OF ATTAINING FAIR TRIAL AT EQUAL BASIS Defendant is humbly requesting that the court reconsider its previous ruling concerning the exclusion of documents from the 2006 Chichakli Civil Case against the government, and the denial of the defense request to call Adam Szubin to testify. Both the testimony of Mr. Szubin and the document used in Chichakli’s 2006 legal action against the government are directly related to the case on trial now, they are related, and they were both used by the government in preparing its case against the defendant. Respectfully submitted
Richard Chichakli, (Pro-Se) Defendant
In terms of bringing up Chichakli’s past work for U.S. intelligence agencies, Chichakli tried to ask Special Agent Larsen whom testified on Tuesday December 3rd if he was aware of his prior work with the NSA? The question was objected by prosecution and sustained by the judge. Chichakli tried to rephrase the question but it ended with the same results. Chichakli in frustration then turned to the judge and said to the judge, “Why can’t I ask about the NSA?” The judge answered, “I’m forbidding it. I issued an order under CIPA.” CIPA is the Classified Information Procedures Act. I did not attend every pre-trial hearing but the judge made it clear that it was discussed and some point and a ruling was made. Obviously it was at a pre-trial hearing that I didn’t attend. Shorty after I posted this article a friend and colleague sent me this pdf: GOVERNMENT’S MEMORANDUM OF LAW TO PRECLUDE THE DEFENDANT FROM OFFERING CERTAIN EVIDENCE which explains why Richard Chichakli’s testimony and evidence is extremely restricted.
The trial will probably end Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday depending on the judge Pauley’s ruling on Chichakli’s reconsideration of witness’. For more detailed information about Chichakli’s first witness, please read Richard Chichakli Calls His First Witness in USA vs. Viktor Bout Et Al. Please stay tuned, we are getting close to the closing arguments and the end of the trial. It is impossible to guess how long a jury will deliberate but deliberations could possibly start as early as Thursday or possibly Friday.
On Wednesday December 4th, 2013 at approximately 2pm the defendant Richard Chichakli, defending himself pro se called his first witness to the stand. Chichakli’s first witness was OFAC [Office of Foreign Asset Control] specialist attorney Hal Eren. This was one witness more than was called during the entire Viktor Bout trial. Chichakli will call several more witness’ including Tami Loehrs an expert computer forensic analyst, FBI special agent Dennis Brady who is currently a Legal Attache in Nairobi, Kenya and possibly DEA agent William Brown pending judge Pauley’s approval. Richard Chichakli submitted a proffer yesterday afternoon to the judge in regards to special agent Brown whom also testified in the Viktor Bout trial.
Mr. Eren was already introduced to us by name via previous exhibits entered into evidence by the prosecution. Despite several protests and objections to the the judge by the prosecutor’s, Eren’s testimony interrupted the prosecutions case as well as their 16th witness, Christine Siedsma. Ironically Siedsma works as a digital forensic examiner in the DEA labs in Lorton, VA. The prosecutor was not as upset over Eren’s testimony as compared to to the upcoming testimony this morning by the defense’s expert witness Tami Loehrs. The prosecution argued that it was not fair to interrupt their case with their expert witness testifying with an expert witness for the defense. They added that it may be interpreted as being prejudicial. Prosecutor Christian Everdell asked if Loehrs could testify on Monday which would also allow prosecutors more time to prepare their cross-examination. Judge Pauley reminded the prosecutor’s that Chichakli is not the U.S. government with unlimited resources as well as pointing out that Ms. Loehrs only anticipated being in New York for a day plus she had scheduling concerns with another trial.
Hal Eren previously worked for OFAC for approximately seven and a half years and has been in private practice for twenty years with his partner Mr. Pinter. Pinter worked at OFAC for seventeen and a half years, according to Eren making them the most experienced private law firm specializing in OFAC related issues. Eren testified that in his legal opinion that Chichakli did not violate OFAC sanctions because he was acting solely as a broker in an airplane deal that exceeded $1.7 million which funds were frozen by OFAC on April 26 2005 and remained frozen to this day. This airplane transaction is at the heart of the government’s case, alleging that Chichakli violated OFAC sanctions specifically IEEPA laws. Chichakli’s defense is that no other parties nor individuals involved in the airplane transaction were on the OFAC sanction list and since Chichakli alleges that he acted only as a broker between the two parties when he was outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. that he did not violate the law. Eren did testify that in addition to contacting OFAC in defense of Chichakli and the companies involved [Aventura Aviation and Samar Air] that the funds that were frozen in 2005 were not tied to Chichakli in anyway. Eren testified that Chichakli was to be paid a $50,000 brokers fee or finders fee directly by Samar Air and that those monies were separate and segregated from the monies involved in the frozen airplane transaction.
During cross-examination Eren seemed to be an entirely different witness and appeared to completely flip. At one point Ian McGinley one of the prosecutor’s asked Eren did we speak previously about this case and he answered yes, then the McGinley asked him did you in fact tell me that you thought Aventura Aviation was conned by Chichakli. Eren stumbled and bumbled and put it in a more diplomatic phrase saying that he felt that he “wasn’t provided with all the available information.”
During cross-examination Eren was asked do you feel that you were misled, and answered that since being provided with the indictment from the government he felt that he was misled. During Eren’s re-direct by Chichakli he was asked if he thought that the documents and evidence that the government provided was authentic? Eren answered that since it came from the government that he assumed it to be true. The judge took notably exception to this comment. In fact shortly after this temper and emotions were escalating on both sides and the judge called for the mid-afternoon break and dismissed the jury for a short recess. About twenty-five minutes later, a slighter longer break to allow all parties to collect their thoughts and to clam down, the jury re-entered. The judge told the court directing his comments to the jury in a very firm tone that what he heard was “an astonishing statement especially coming from an attorney” referring to Erens comment that he presumed the governments evidence to be true. Judge Pauley told the jury that an indictment is not evidence and is only a legal charge to bring the defendant to trial. Judge Pauley emphasized that “the only assumption is that the defendant Mr. Chichakli is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” The judge then made a comment as to Eren’s bias to the prosecutor’s despite the fact that the defense called the witness.
Please stay tuned for more updates!
Crowdsourcing Legal Advice
Richard Chichakli is fighting an uphill legal battle against the U.S. government. Chichakli has been accused of being Viktor Bout’s co-conspirator, sometimes accused of being Bout’s money-man and / or partner. Chichakli was extradited from Australia this past May to the U.S. where he is currently facing trial. Chichakli’s trial is unusually in many ways but most notable is that he is defending himself pro-se. With my limited court experience, I have been impressed with Chichakli’s handling of his case thus far. Chichakli does not have a law degree nor as far as I know any legal training whatsoever.
Chichakli has been frustrated as of late, especially as to the honorable judge Pauley’s recent decisions in denying Chichakli’s request to have several high-profile witness’ testify. I recently wrote an article about Douglas Farah, co-author of ‘The Merchant of Death’ asking the judge to grant his request not to testify. Farah said that what he knows “is based on hearsay and would not be admissible in court.” My article titled, Judge Rules Merchant of Death Author Does Not Have to Testify in Chichakli Trial goes into more detail. I just received an email from Chichakli earlier today asking me for legal advice. I am obviously not a lawyer but Chichakli then sent me a second email asking me to post a blog with his legal questions, in other words to crowdsource some legal advice for him. This is what he wrote in his second email:
Howdy: Just sent you some updates for your pages, I wonder if the public can give me an answer through the internet? Sincerely Richard
Chichakli seemed very sincere in his quest to understand the law as well as getting any legitimate feedback and opinions to his legal questions. As per Chichakli’s request I am sending out his first email.
Judge William Pauley have ruled in favor of the government’s request to preclude witnesses including; among dozen others, Johan Peleman, Dennis Brady, and Douglas Farah
I am questioning whether such ruling is “legally sound” given for the facts that material that were used by the government in the prosecution of this case belongs to these witnesses.
In Peleman’s case, the invention of Chichakli-Bout relation was created by Johan Peleman in his UN report S/2000/1225 and later in his report S/2003/1035. Both reports are included in the indictment, both reports were used to obtain the indictment through the grand jury, and both reports were used by the government in replying to the motions by Chichakli. The judge’s decision in calling this material “irrelevant” and “Hearsay” and these witnesses “Unrelated” seems to be prejudice, or subject to “double standards” the least.
The same applies to Denied Brady of the FBI and who’s affidavit is among the evidence used by the government, so is the case of Douglas Farah who lied twice under oath in his testimony to the US Congress in 2005 and 2008, and who was used and still being used by the US government as “The expert” in the matter of Bout-Chichakli!
My questions are simply:
- How material and witnesses can be used by the government and then excluded and precluded for the defense purpose? – How material and evidence can be called relevant to the government case and irrelevant to the defense cross-examination? – How would the government be allowed to bring witnesses that are not on the list of witnesses? – Is the preclusion of cross-examination constitutional under the 14th amendment? – Is this trial held under a single set of standards or more than one set of standards?
I am not a lawyer, but these are rather common sense questions!
Judge Orders Chichakli Out of Solitary Confinement
I plan to post an update of the trial in sort of a timeline fashion within the next day or two. However, I thought this one particular occurrence was worth mentioning now.
Shortly before Chichakli’s trial began he was moved from MDC Federal prison located in Brooklyn where he was in general population to MCC prison in Manhattan to be closer to the Federal Court house located at 500 Pearl Street. This was no surprise in fact in was anticipated. What occurred next or actually how it happened is not clear. Richard Chichakli was accused of breaking the prison rules and was immediately put into maximum security aka the SHU [Security Housing Unit] upon his arrival to MCC prison in Mahattan. Chichakli told the judge that he did not do anything to warrant the punishment.
Last Monday November 25, 2012 judge Pauley told the prosecutors to have a representative form the Bureau of Prison’s [BOP] to come at 1pm. After the jury was dismissed for lunch, Mr. Johnson from BOP spoke to the judge about moving Chichakli. At which point judge Pauley ordered Chichakli to be moved from solitary confinement to general population as soon as a bed is available. The judge told the prosecutors that this is in their best interest. The judge said, “that if Mr. Chichakli is convicted, this will be the first line in the appellate court.” Since Chichakli is defending himself, while in solitary confinement he has no access to the telephone and no email access. Therefore he had no ability to contact potential witness’ to testify on his behalf nor access to any communications for any purpose. Chichakli earlier in the day mentioned that his sister sent him some funds that were received by the prison but he was blocked by OFAC [Office of Foreign Asset Control] from making any phone call. The judge additionally ordered that BOP and OFAC unblock his commissary account immediately so that Chichakli would have access to his funds.
Douglas Farah’s Subpoena Nullified
Today about 5:20pm EST, the Honorable Judge William H. Pauley III ruled on Douglas Farah’s request to quash [To overthrow; to annul; to make void or declare invalid] his subpoena by Richard Chichakli. Dougals Farah is co-author of the book the Merchant of Death which is about Viktor Bout. Chichakli is alleged to be Viktor Bout’s co-co-conspirator and is currently under on trial. I have so far been in attendance the entire trial and I am guessing that Viktor Bout’s name has been mentioned at least 100 times so far during the course of the trial by both the prosecution and defense.
After the jury was dismissed shortly after 5:00pm the prosecution and defense argued back and forth to the judge in what can be described as very emotional and at times heated. As a reminder, Chichakli is representing himself or pro-se. Today’s debate to the judge was mostly over Chichakli’s witness’ that he would like to subpoena, several by video conference and a few in person, the judge at one point had to warn him not to raise his voice in the court room. It appeared that Chichakli’s frustration was directed more towards the prosecution more so than the judge for the prosecutions many objections to most of his requested witness’. Marlon Kirton, Chichakli’s standby counsel also plead his case to the judge several times on behalf of his potential client should he have to take over the case at a moments notice. Most of the emotional discussion directed towards the judge was from the prosecutor Christian R. Everdell and Mr. Chichakli.
Chichakli seemed disappointed that judge Pauley III granted Farah his request to avoid the subpoena but the judge stated by Farah’s own admission that what he would testify to in court “was based mostly on hearsay and would not be admissible in court.” From a legal perspective it makes sense, Farah has co-authored a book about Viktor Bout but has never met him nor has Farah ever interviewed Bout. Thus many close associates of Bout question the authenticity as well as Douglas Farah’s motives for the book that some say was a directed negative PR campaign and character assassination of Bout. However, from Chichakli’s perspective, from observing him during pre-trial hearings as well during his trial, I am assuming that he wanted to discredit Douglas Farah? More importantly, I’m guessing that Chichakli wanted Farah to testify as to why and for whom was he asked to write the defamatory book about Viktor Bout.
Douglas Farah’s Attorney Files a Memo to Court
The following excerpts are taking from a Rapsi article titled Merchant of Death author seeks to avoid alleged Bout co-conspirator’s trial which was published on November 26, 2013:
The well-known co-author of the book Merchant of Death, which is said to profile Viktor Bout, filed a motion to quash a subpoena to testify in the trial of his alleged co-conspirator Richard Ammar Chichakli, according to court documents obtained by RAPSI.
Farah authored the book Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible, which was published in 2008.
US prosecutors moved earlier this month to exclude the book, as well as the co-author’s media statements and Congressional testimony, amongst other items sought by Chichakli to be introduced as evidence.
A memo filed with the court by Farah’s attorneys Monday explains the court agreed, issuing an order on November 18 asserting that: “[i]f offered for the truth, the content of these documents are inadmissible hearsay… Absent a showing by Chichakli of a nonhearsay purpose, these documents are precluded.”
The memo goes on to state that Chichakli served Farah with a subpoena to testify at a hearing or trial in the case on November 22.
The document goes on to state, “The court should quash the subpoena to testify for the same reason it has already rejected defendant’s attempt to admit Mr. Farah’s writings, interviews and Congressional testimony into evidence: Mr. Farah’s testimony would be based on inadmissible hearsay.”
The memo further raises the special legal protections awarded to journalists under New York’s Shield Law and the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
According to the document, the New York Shield Law “affords absolute protection of a reporter’s confidential material and sources and qualified protection for non-confidential material and sources.”
The First Amendment of the US Constitution provides for the freedoms of speech and the press, stating in relevant part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….”
Furthermore, the memo notes that Farah has a long-standing commitment to conduct a specialized training with the US National Security Agency (NSA) on December 3, and expects to be out of the country until December 14, 2013. Thus Farah requested the court to quash the subpoena, or to at least adjourn its return date to sometime after his return from NSA training.
Please stayed, I plan to update my blog very soon with a post of many highlights that have happened over the last severals of the Richard Chichakli trial.
Inside the Courtroom
So far his case definitely has not attracted the attention of the press as well as the media frenzy that was present during Viktor Bout’s trial. Bout’s trial was packed as well as having an overflow room available where press, Federal employees and the general public could watch the trial via a CCTV. Inside the courtroom there were myself, a Reuter’s representative and several Russian journalists. We could have easily fit on one row but for comfort decided to spread out.
Inside courtroom 20 B Chichakli wore a dark grey suit and hung off him slightly due to a smaller frame caused by weight loss over the last several months. Ironically Bout’s trial was held directly across the hall in courtroom 20 A. One of the lead DEA agents from the Viktor Bout sting operation dubbed Operation Relentless that lead to Bout’s capture in Thailand sat in the back of the courtroom watching the trial intensely. Several other DEA agents popped in briefly during the trail. Those same three agents were present during the majority of Bout’s three week long trial. After a short delay due to a late juror [the judge expressed his displeasure to those in the courtroom] the trial was underway. The presiding judge in this case is the Honorable William H. Pauley III. He is very tall and looks to be average build to thin and wears a closely cropped beard. Being in the courtroom during some of Chichakli’s hearings, it was evident that Judge Pauley III has a good sense of humor, is extremely patient. After sitting through the entire day in court yesterday, the judge came across as extremely fair is this odd case where Chichakli is representing himself also known as pro se.
The case is U.S.A. v. Bout et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 09-1002. The Syrian born naturalized U.S. citizen, Richard Ammar Chichakli falls under the “et al”. After spending nearly 11 combined months in prison from the time he was arrested in Australia until now, he finally has his day in court. Once arrested in January 2013 he was finally extradited to the U.S. in May of this year. According to Chichakli in correspondence between us, he was bounced around quite a bit between prisons and even within prisons. You can read more in my interview with Chichakli, World Exclusive: Richard Chichakli’s First Interview Since His Extradition From Australia To A U.S. Prison.
Due to time constraints I am going to take the following excerpts from a Reuters article titled, U.S. trial begins for Russian arms dealer’s accused conspirator written by Joseph Ax:
A U.S.-Syrian citizen conspired with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to buy aircraft, using fake names to get around sanctions that had been imposed against him, a government prosecutor told a jury on Wednesday in New York federal court.
Richard Chichakli deceived a Florida aviation company in an effort to sidestep a presidential executive order prohibiting him from conducting any transactions with U.S. businesses, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian Everdale said at the start of Chichakli’s criminal trial.
“The defendant deceived legitimate business people in the United States; he violated the sanctions against him,” Everdale said. “And he did it for money.”
Chichakli, representing himself, told the court the government had concocted a false story about him because of his ties to Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death” for his purported willingness to ship arms to anyone who could pay him.
“It’s your job to try to separate the facts from the fiction,” Chichakli told the jurors. “A whole lot of this story is fiction.”
Towards the end of Chichakli’s opening statement he mentioned to the jury that you will hear a man by the name of Viktor Bout. He then added that he was the only person in the world that asked the U.S. government why they were targeting Bout and how he remained friends with Viktor Bout since they first met in 1995.
Molly Miller from the Office of Foreign Assets Control [OFAC] was a witness for the prosecutor as well as Michael Anthony Bachtel [not sure of the spelling of his last name] a DHS / ICE agent. The DHS agent interviewed Chichakli along with FBI agent Dennis Brady in April 2005. Chichakli having no legal experience or background and by his own admission being a Certified Public Accountant and aviation expert held his on in the court room. I would have to say that for a novice representing themselves and cross examining Molly Miller from OFAC and a DHS / ICE agent he was very impressive. There were little nuances and procedural mistakes made along the way but his questions and strategy were impressive. In fact, he did better than some lawyers that I have watched in other trials.
During his cross-examinations, Chichakli tried to hammer home the point that if someone is under OFAC sanctions like he was after 2005, that you can not even buy a hamburger from McDonald’s legally in this country. His point was that you have to apply for individual licenses to get access to your own blocked money. Chichakli then demonstrated that sometimes these licenses take many months as well as having OFAC representative Miller admit that the license approval process is discretionary.
In terms of the DHS / ICE agent, Chichakli got him to say in court that an investigation that begun in 2003 and did not formally end until 2012 ended in no charges being bought against him. Chichakli also mentioned all the accusations in the ‘affidavit’ that the government used to apply for a search warrant [which was granted] ended in no charges filed against him. If you look at the case name, U.S.A. v. Bout et al U.S.A. v. Bout et al as well as Chichakli’s opening statement as well as his strategy in his cross-examination of the witness’, he seems to be hammering home to the jury the ‘guilty by association’ scenario. Chichakli appears to be saying that since he was friends with and has remained friends with Viktor Bout, which he stated several times is a strictly political case, thus because of this association he claims he was targeted by the U.S. government and that they ‘dismantled my life’.
From where I am sitting, this trial like the curious case of Viktor Bout will not be dull. It will be full of interesting twists and turns. If I was a bookie, I wouldn’t want to lay odds on the outcome of this case, stay-tuned for more updates.
Richard Chichakli now 54 years-old was being held in solitary confinement in an Australian prison since his arrest on January 9th 2013 until his eventually extradition to the U.S. on May 24th, 2013. Chichakli is facing charges in a joint indictment in the U.S. over his alleged involvement with Viktor Bout who’s been jailed in the U.S. for 25 years convicted on conspiracy charges. Despite Viktor Bout’s harsh sentence he has strongly maintained his innocence and Chichakli denies working for Bout but proudly boasts of their friendship.
Richard Chichakli is currently being detained at The Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, more commonly known as MDC, Brooklyn. The interview was conducted between Richard and I via the Bureau of Prison’s CorrLinks email communication system.
Richard, Australia to the United States is quite a long journey for anyone. Please describe what your extradition process was like, also if you know, how long did it take and by what mode of transportation did you travel to the United States?
The extradition process on the Australian side was fast. I did not protest the extradition and waived my right for any legal process in Australia. I was ready for extradition in about 15 days; however, the US government waited all the 6 month allowed prior to pick me up. I was arrested Jan/09/2013 and picked up almost 6 month later on May 25th, 2013.
The trip to the United States was horrible, I was not allowed to bring any thing with me not even a jacket, a pants, T-shirt, and my keppah. Throughout the trip I was shackled and handcuffed, no food, no drinks, no bathroom through the 19 hours flight; the worst inhumane treatment you could expect.
Once you arrived in the U.S., how were you treated as a Federal inmate and how were your facilities at the prison or prisons where you have been detained?
On arrival I was delivered to the MCC prison, small prior of seclusion prior to placement at 7-north at MCC, three days later moved to MDC- West building, few days more and again moved to the old East building, and before long moved yet again to the west building. Movement creates undue pressure and that is what the government is trying to achieve by keep moving me around.
Richard, for those readers that may be new to this story, can you please briefly describe the nature of your relationship with Viktor Bout? As well as when and where you first met Viktor Bout?
My relation to Victor is described in detail on my web site; he is a brother and a friend that is all.
The following excerpts are taking directly from my article titled, Exclusive: Richard Chichakli Speaks About the Viktor Bout Trial.
The Richard Chichakli Viktor Bout Connection
Before I share Richards’ comments with you I wanted to first discuss briefly the connection between the two men. What better way than to let Richard do that in his own words? Therefore, all of the following excerpts are taking verbatim form Richard Chichakli’s website from the page titled What connects Richard Chichakli to Viktor Bout. I did, however, take the liberty of merely rearranging some of the paragraphs but not the words.
Richard Chichakli first introduction to Victor Bout took place about 14 years ago, in August of 1995, in the state of Sharjah, one of the seven states in the United Arab Emirates. At that point of time Richard was an employee of the government of Sharjah, serving as the commercial manager of Sharjah Airport International Free Zone and Victor Bout was one of the hundreds of investors who were interested in setting up a business in that free zone.
Richard has always called Victor a “brother and friend” and he is that to Richard, nothing more and nothing less. What was unique in the friendship of these two men is that after the UN [the infamous Johan Peleman] published its report about Victor Bout in 2001 and which led to the financial collapse of Victor Bout, almost all of Victor’s friends abandoned him except for Richard Chichakli. For those who know Richard that would not be surprising because Richard is a descendant of a large Arabian family with history of values and traditions. Richard will not abandon a friend on the basis of “hearsay”, nor will he accept to “hush up” in order to be politically correct. Therefore, he publicly demanded of those using Victor Bout for personal gains to show evidence and corroborate facts, and that was fatal because he was the only one standing in the face of a current.
Richard is not and was not an employee/associate of Victor Bout or any of his companies for any length of time. Richard is not, nor was he ever the chief financial manager of Mr. Bout’s, nor the spokesperson for him or any of his organizations, nor was he ever an officer and/or director of any company belongs to Victor Bout and to which account any amount of money was sent or received for any purpose. It is imperative to understand that Mr. Bout was not sanctioned by the US government until July of 2004, and prior to that date there was not any prohibition to conduct business with him.
——————- Interview continued …
Have you ever worked for, with or were contracted by any U.S. or Russian intelligence agencies? What about Viktor Bout?
Sorry, cannot answer that yet. Those in my military records there are a couple of recommendations from the 311 Military Intelligence and the 902 Counter Intelligence. I also use to be a full-time employee of the US Dept. of Justice; well, and finally I seem to have filed W2s issued by the US Dept. of Agriculture with my tax returns; thus, I never worked for the Dept. of Agriculture. Concerning Victor, it seems that few letters released by the UN and IPIS; and which are available on the internet can help answering your question. More details could also come to light during my court appearance on Sep/27th. That is all I can say about the intelligence.
Richard, it was one of the world’s worst kept secrets that you spent many years living in Moscow. Why did you risk you freedom to go to Australia?
I did not spend that much time in Moscow in reality, perhaps just a year in Total! As to Australia it was about 2.5 years. The rest elsewhere. As to risking freedom; I would not characterize it that way. Australia was in my view a safe bit, far away and I would not be expected to be there.
Did you feel that you were no longer safe in Moscow and if so why?
I never was safe in Moscow, and that is the reason I did not live in Russia. The reason… perhaps later.Have you ever met or transacted any business transactions with former Liberian President, notorious War Lord and former CIA asset, Charles Taylor?
Never knew where is Liberia until I heard about it from OFAC, nor ever heard of its president. Never done business with, about, around, or with any one related to Liberia or its government, past or present, not Taylor nor anyone else.
The elaborate sting operation carried out by the DEA’s Special Operations Division to catch Viktor Bout which was dubbed Operation ‘Relentless’ that spanned over three continents, is estimated to have cost U.S. taxpayer’s several hundred million dollars. In your opinion, what was the real impetus behind this operation?
The matter of Victor Bout is a matter of politics, too many politicians and too much of resources went into the story. The matter also involves Russia as far as I know. Now it is clear that Clinton and Holder had their signature on an invalid document evident and in testimony to the political nature of the matter. The Re-arrest of Victor in Thailand after the refusal of his extradition was a complete fraud by the US government. Evidence will be shown in the federal court on the 27th after a couple of weeks.
Is there anything about you or your case that you would like to tell or share with the world?
Sure, the United States politics should stay outside the court room and should not interfere with justice.
Thank you for taking the time to answer the questions. I realize that you are extremely busy especially since you are representing yourself.
I have just recently been in touch directly with Richard Chichakli whom is alleged by the U.S. Department of Justice to been an associate and accomplice of Viktor Bout. We have connected via the Bureau of Prisons inmate prison system dubbed CorrLinks. Prior to this I was receiving correspondence from Richard via a third party. The following is an excerpt of my first CorrLinks message that I received directly from Richard Chichakli on September 8th, 2013:
Good day George: Thank you for your message, it is wonderful to hear from you. Concerning visit, I will send you the form you need to mail back to M. Mundo; I’ll have it in the mail today. Thus, tomorrow; Monday I will be in the court in Manhattan, Judge William Pauley’s court room on the 20th floor on Pearl st. I will be revealing secrets related to the false documents used by the government to keep Victor in Jail in Thailand when the extradition was refused. The indictment and warrant used in the Samar Air case were both invalid forgery as there was no indictment with his name in 2010, and certainly there was no related warrant. Unfortunately you are not here to see the show, but perhaps you can let your connections in the media know and be there. It is a twist like no other and it should earn Victor a new trial if not release based on “Government outrageous conduct”.
As Richard stated I would be unable to attend his court hearing since I am currently in Moscow. Yesterday I searched various websites to see the outcome of Chichakli’s court appearance but found no mention whatsoever. However, a new CorrLinks message from Chichakli dated September 10th 2013 cleared up the confusion. According to Richard Chichakli whom made it crystal clear that he is willing to reveal any and all secrets relating to him, Viktor Bout and any connections to U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies. Due to time constraints I will share Richard Chichakli’s latest message with you.
9/10/2013 10:23:13 AM
Good day Thanks for all the news, it is getting stranger by the minute and the intelligence files are seems to be getting on the table. I am not sure how the court will handle that but the matter is hairy, … a lot more than what it seems on the surface. On Monday the court was cancelled as you heard and I had a meeting with the government. They offered 41 to 51 month plea, which I reject on the face. They violated every law there is and I am not pleading guilty to an alleged crime that never existed and to a charge I did not do nor been a part off just to go to jail. I have been illegally jailed for almost a year and I had enough of laying low. If they do not let me go I’d rather go to court and open the entire book on all they did; including the arrest of Victor Bout in 2010 on an indictment which was cancelled in 2009. I wonder how would they explain issuing an arrest warrant on invalid indictment, I wonder what would that do to the reputation of the judge who signed it, to the federal court which issued it, and to the integrity of the entire justice system in the United States as a whole. The case that was filed by the US government in February 2010 in order to prevent Victor Bout from walking after the Thai court refused the extradition is the same case I am fighting in New York now. The indictment I am fighting now does not have anyone but me, one name and one person only. The date of this indictment is November 10, 2009. Victor was Re-arrested in Thailand in Feb/2010 but there was no indictment against him in the United State on Case no 09-1002 WHP; the Samar Air Charges. The arrest is invalid, because no indictment against him existed then, the arrest warrant that was handed to the Thai authority is false and fraud, the extradition request which must be endorsed by the US Attorney General and the US Secretary of State was fraud or forgery committed by the Office of the US Attorney in conspiracy with the DEA and others. The whole thing is a circus; a scandal on an international level that was created and devised in order to conceal the crimes committed by OFAC and the politics behind the matter. Another case similar to what transpired in the Gulf since 1990 on a smaller scale. The UN they keep saying, while in fact it is just ONE PERSON; Johan Peleman who happened to use the UN as cover to pass the political policy dictated by the United States. I had plenty of records and evidence showing his corruption payment from Alexi Yanshuk of the Phoenix aviation in Dubai; they deleted the evidence and they withheld more than 61% of the evidence handed over to the US prosecutors by the Australian Federal Police. The AFP handed them 41 storage devices with 4.2 Terra Byte of data, I received images for 18 devices with 1.5 Terra Byte only. Plus non of the evidence they collected from my homes and offices in 2005 were turned over to me; almost 10 terra-byte, more than 500,000,000 of pages disappeared from the evidence. They are hiding everything that incriminate the US government or damaging o their case, an obstruction of justice on an unseen scale. JUSTICE… sure; let the world know the truth Richard Chichakli
I will keep my readers updated with any further developments in this intriguing and curious case of Viktor Bout and Richard Chichakli.
Coming To America
If the U.S. Dept. of justice has it way, it may finally have Richard Chichakli extradited to America. According to Richard’s wife, his current Australian legal battle to fight his extradition is a lost cause! She also told me that a final decision can come as early as April 4th.
Mrs. Chichakli stated to me that,
“He [Richard Chichakli] had a court hearing on Wednesday (March 27, 2013) where it was made clear that he no longer is granted free legal assistance by Victoria Legal Aid because he’s not likely to win his matter. Also, the magistrate (judge) brought a notion that it’s not up to the court to decide on the extradition matter, it is in the hands of the Attorney General. As such the surrender decision would be made on April 4th, the next court day, and Richard would be extradited shortly.”
Richard Chichakli now 53 years-old has been held in solitary confinement in an Australian prison since his arrest on 10 January 2013last month and he is currently awaiting possible extradition to the United States. Chichakli is facing charges in a joint indictment in the U.S. over his alleged involvement with Viktor Bout who’s been jailed in the U.S. for 25 years convicted on conspiracy charges. Despite Viktor Bout’s harsh sentence he has strongly maintained his innocence and Chichakli denies working for Bout but proudly boasts of their friendship.