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Note: This thread is related to #Coronavirus #COVID19
Despite everything: Good morning from New York.
Turkey's state-run Halkbank will be arraigned at 10:30 a.m. on massive money laundering claims.
At 1 p.m., the court fight to unseal more Jeffrey Epstein-related files resumes.
Covering both, live from home, for @CourthouseNews.
This morning's arraignment falls nearly half a year after Halkbank's indictment last Oct. 15, shortly after Trump's withdrawal from Syria.
After refusing to participate in the proceedings for months, Halkbank agreed after losing an appeal. https://www.courthousenews.com/turkeys-state-run-halkbank-agrees-to-us-arraignment/ …
Things have changed rapidly since that last development.
Most notably, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced today's proceedings to take place via teleconference.
Halkbank swapped its lawyers: Its former firm King & Spalding has been replaced by Williams & Connolly.
As my regular readers know, the Halkbank case stems from a 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey, involving a multibillion-dollar conspiracy spearheaded by gold trader Reza Zarrab.
Zarrab implicated Turkey's Erdoğan in it from a New York courtroom in late 2017.
Before pleading guilty, Zarrab was represented by Rudy Giuliani, who shuttled between the White House and Turkey's capital of Ankara in an attempted prisoner swap that could have killed the case.
Sen. Ron Wyden is investigating the Trump admin's possible attempts to interfere with the case.
Background: https://www.courthousenews.com/when-ron-wyden-talks-turkey-the-senate-listens-inside-the-finance-committees-halkbank-probe/ …
The hearing is about to begin. Standby.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman:
"First of all, welcome everybody. We are, as you know, proceeding by teleconference today rather than physically proceeding in court and a courtroom...
Of course, we're doing this because of the coronavirus pandemic."
Judge Berman notes that only the parties can speak on the call.
The press and public are muted, while listening to the proceedings.
He says we hope to add a "video component" to the proceedings, hopefully in the "near future."
Judge Berman: Calling include people from "all over the world, as I understand it."
The judge notes the switch-up in Halkbank's lead counsel, who is now Robert Cary from Williams & Connolly.
Cary: "I am literally sitting by myself." But four colleagues listening in.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys introduce themselves:
* David Denton
* Sid Kamaraju
* Michael Lockard
Judge Berman: "The principal purpose of today's proceeding is to conduct an arraignment of the corporate defendant Halkbank."
It will be arraigned through its counsel.
Judge Berman asks Halkbank's counsel whether the bank waives its right to physically appear in a Southern District of New York courtroom, or in lieu of that, a video feed.
Robert Cary answers "Yes" to each question.
Halkbank's attorney Robert Cary, just now:
"Halkbank pleads not guilty on all counts of the indictment."
They move onto scheduling.
Cary, for Halkbank: "I was hired to try to turn over a new leaf in this case" and get a "fresh start."
He wants to meet with Halkbank in Turkey to discuss whether to file a motion to recuse the judge, and if so, on what grounds.
...But the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented international travel.
So Halkbank wants a status conference 90 days from now. The government opposes.
AUSA Lockard: "I think we all understand and are operating under the new state of affairs created by the Covid-19 situation..."
But, he adds, accommodations can be made to keep the case moving forward.
G7 economic meetings are being held by video conference, he notes.
Acknowledging that in-person meetings are preferable in a wide variety of situations, Lockard says there is no reason proceedings can't move forward now.
"So we think that it is possible to set a schedule to address matters that can be addressed."
Judge Berman asks Mr. Cary whether Halkbank is a relatively new client.
Cary responds that he has met them twice, visiting Turkey on two occasions, before and after he was retained. He notes there are "significant language differences" that make remote communication difficult.
Judge Berman: Do you think there's any adjustment we can make in the next 90 days? Say, 70 days?...[Then revisit to see if the schedule must be adjusted.]
Cary: I think that's a sensible solution, your honor.
Status conference tentatively set for Tuesday, June 9 at 10 a.m.
Halkbank's ex-counsel Andrew Hruska, from King & Spalding, follows up on motion to withdraw.
Judge Berman grants it.
Telephone conference is adjourned.
Look out for a story on today's arraignment soon, at @CourthouseNews.
Sağ ol. Stay safe and well, all.
You can follow @KlasfeldReports.
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