By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — The judge presiding over an upcoming trial of two associates of Rudy Giuliani and a third man on charges they made illegal campaign contributions said Thursday he’d be shocked if Giuliani’s recently confiscated phones aid a selective prosecution claim he’s already rejected.
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken commented as attorney Joseph Bondy pressed for assurances that prosecutors will let defense lawyers know if any phone data would help the defense of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin. All three have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail.
At one point at a pretrial hearing, the Manhattan judge asked Bondy if he thought a phone might contain something from former Attorney General William Barr saying Parnas should be arrested “because he’s going to turn against Trump even though he’s a big Trump supporter now.”
“If there is such a document, I would be shocked,” the judge said, though he instructed federal prosecutors to forward to him anything they might receive along those lines.
During the remotely conducted conference, Oetken said Bondy’s selective prosecution argument on behalf of Parnas “lacks plausibility.”
He was repeating his finding from a ruling last week when he called Bondy’s arguments “implausible” that Parnas was targeted for arrest because of his national origin, his political affiliation and a government conspiracy to prevent him from exercising his constitutional rights.
A court-appointed former federal judge is overseeing the separation of privileged materials from other data pulled from 18 phones taken during raids of Giuliani ‘s home and law office earlier this year. Some phones belonged to employees of the former New York mayor’s firm.
Parnas and Fruman worked with Giuliani before their arrests to try to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Giuliani has said he knew nothing about contributions by the men. He has not been charged.
Former President Donald Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine for an investigation of the Bidens led the House to impeach Trump, though he was acquitted by the Senate. At the time, Giuliani was serving Trump as a personal lawyer.
Also Thursday, Oetken refused to postpone a trial scheduled for early October until February. Defense lawyers claimed that September holidays and difficulties getting children ready for a return to school necessitated a delay.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos, though, said it was not in the “public’s interest” to delay further a trial only expected to last a week or two.
The men are charged in a scheme to make illegal campaign donations to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada and other states to try to win support for a new recreational marijuana business.
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