The US Attorney's Office in Manhattan has filed a 33-page memorandum of law in opposition to Richard Chichakli's Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal, and in the alternative, Motion for a New Trial, asserting that there is neither a factual, nor a legal basis for the granting of either motion. Chichakli, who was extradited from Australia, was found guilty on December 13, 2013, on multiple counts, including money laundering.
The defendant's post-trial arguments can be summarized as follows:
(1) He is entitled to a judgment of acquittal, pursuant to Rule 29, FRCP, as the evidence at trial was insufficient to convict him on any of the nine counts.
(2) In the alternative, he is entitled to a vacation of the judgment, and a new trial, pursuant to Rule 33, because he could not properly prepare for trial, due to illness, and he was improperly denied the opportunity to call an expert witness.
(3) He also contends that the judgment of convicted should be arrested, under Rule 34, because the Indictment fails to state an offense.
The Government's response, which contains profuse citations to relevant legal authorities :
(A) The evidence at trial was more than sufficient to establish his guilt, and he has failed to meet the heavy burden that the case law under Rule 29 requires.
(B) Chichakli, in open court, voluntarily stated that he wished to go to trial; it was his stand-by counsel who advised that he was too ill to prepare for, and go to, trial. On the denial of his expert witness, the Court has the right to exclude any witness whose testimony consists solely of a legal conclusion, and that ruling is within the Court's sound judicial discretion. Rule 33 motions are only granted sparingly, to prevent injustice.
(C) The Rule 34 motion, to arrest judgment, is without legal merit, and should be denied. The indictment is legally sufficient to make the defendant aware of the crimes charged, and to allow him to prepare a defense. The defendant's assertion, that he did not know what to defend against, is absurd; he had received discovery in the case that spelled out, in detail, the Government's theory of the case.
A previous order allows Chichakli until February 27 to respond to the Government's memorandum; Sentencing has been scheduled for March 14. 2014.
Court watchers, who have been anticipating the disclosure of the extent of the relationship between Chichakli and his partner, Viktor Bout, and the Central Intelligence Agency, in this case, have yet to see any details. Bout's Russian attorney has hinted around the subject, in interviews he has given to the Russian media, but nothing has surfaced to date.
After the Court rules on the pending motions, Chichakli is expected to appeal his conviction, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.