Bijan Rafiekian, Michael Flynn's former business partner, is asking a judge to delay his trial on charges of conspiracy, operating as an illegal foreign agent, and lying to the FBI until at least September so as to give his defense team time to go through evidence.
The request could complicate or delay Flynn’s sentencing on a felony charge of making false statements to the FBI while he was serving in the White House. A judge delayed the sentencing last month in order to take stock of Flynn cooperation in his business partner’s case.
Both sides in Flynn’s case are scheduled to report in writing to the judge by March 13, but it seems unlikely that Rafiekian’s trial will be underway or even imminent by that time.
Rafiekian's trial was supposed to start February 11th, but when prosecutors asked for a two-week delay, the judge instead postponed proceedings indefinitely.
Rafiekian’s lawyers said they’re attempting to wade through nearly 4 million electronic records turned over by prosecutors. They also said the partial government shutdown has delayed the government from carrying out its pledge to identify documents key to the prosecution’s case.
“Until the shutdown ends, the defense is left to sift through a mass of material that could not be reviewed in a year’s time, much less several weeks,” defense attorneys Mark MacDougall, Stacey Mitchell and Robert Trout wrote in their submission to U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga.
The defense team also said prosecutors have planned to present the court with at least some classified information that might be relevant to the case. The defense could make requests for the classified evidence, leading to pretrial proceedings that are often protracted.
The attorneys made a secret submission to the judge detailing an investigation they wish to conduct that is likely to take “several months at a minimum.”
“In sum, a trial date in advance of September does not allow the defendant to make a meaningful review of the discovery, much less to investigate issues arising out of that review, and to prepare for trial,” the defense team wrote.
An email to a spokesman for the prosecutors, based in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, was returned with a message saying the spokesman was furloughed as part of the government shutdown.
Last month, the Virginia federal court unsealed an indictment charging former Flynn Intel Group partner Rafiekian and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin with various offenses connected to an alleged scheme to conceal the Turkish government’s involvement in their efforts to “discredit and delegitimize” Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and political rival of the current leaders in Istanbul.
Gulen has lived in the U.S. since 1999 but Turkish leaders have pressed unsuccessfully for years to have him returned to Turkey for trial. They accuse him of fomenting resistance to the current government including a coup attempt in 2016. He has denied the charges.