The Michael Cohen guilty plea, the Paul Manafort jury verdict, and the Imran Awan caress on the wrist


By Robert Willmann

As most of the television mass media elevated themselves to heights of ecstasy over the guilty plea of former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and the jury verdict on 8 of 18 criminal charges against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort that happened yesterday, 21 August, there was a third, kind of hushed-up criminal case with a four-count federal indictment against a man named Imran Awan and his wife Hina Alvi that concluded yesterday with sentencing, after which Imran walked out of the courthouse and his wife's case was dismissed.  She got out of the country in the face of the FBI and Capitol Police on 5 March 2017.

On 20 August 2018, a "John Doe" paper was filed regarding Cohen in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)–

Yesterday, Michael Cohen showed up in court to plead guilty to a 21-page, 8-count "information" that was filed and which contained felony criminal charges.  A document alleging a federal felony that is filed by agreement is called an information instead of an indictment–

He did so with and through a plea agreement with the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan–

To conclude the formality, he was released on a personal recognizance bond, which means he is released on his signature, and he did not have to put up any money for bail, even though the amount of the bond is $500,000.00.  The bond also required the signature of his wife and one additional "financially responsible person" (in this instance obviously not Trump!)–

Beginning on page 11 of the charging document are the alleged campaign finance violations, which are counts 7 and 8 and about which the media is estatic.  Count 7, asserting an unlawful corporate contribution, refers to "Woman-1", the Playboy magazine model, and obviously regards the National Enquirer newspaper.  Count 8 alleges an excessive campaign contribution, and refers to "Woman-2", the pornographic film performer, Stephanie Clifford, alias Stormy Daniels. 



Paragraph 35 in the introduction to counts 7 and 8 says that Cohen "coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments".  Count 8 says that he made the payment to Woman-2 (Stephanie Clifford/Daniels) "in cooperation, consultation, and concert with, and at the request and suggestion of one or more members of the campaign …."  This vague language is the only part of the document that could be interpreted as referring to Trump.

Missing from the court proceeding was the factual basis or statement of the offense, required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(3):  "Before entering judgment on a guilty plea, the court must determine that there is a factual basis for the plea".  This is usually in writing.  It is not clear to me if they tried to do it orally.  Media reports have stated that Cohen said verbally in court that payments to the women were made in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.   Or, it might be done later in writing.

The fact that Cohen's plea agreement does not expressly provide for cooperation does not mean that he has not already cooperated or sought to do so.  The last paragraph of his agreement starts with the sentence:  "Apart from any written Proffer Agreement(s) that may have been entered into between this Office and defendant, this Agreement supersedes any prior understandings, promises, or conditions between this Office and the defendant."

Turning to the Paul Manafort case, the jury could not reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 charges, and so a mistrial was declared on those.  The government could pursue another trial on the 10 deadlocked counts, but probably will not.  When the trial was over, Judge T.S. Ellis III denied the request of news organizations to release the names of the jurors–

Manafort did not put on any evidence after the prosecution concluded its case.  Even with no evidence presented on his behalf, the jury still could not agree on 10 of the allegations, which is an interesting aspect of the trial, since the prosecution's case was mostly on paper evidence, which is usually the easiest to prove.

Now for the third case of the day, in which the Department That Calls Itself Justice caressed the wrist of criminal defendant Imran Awan.   His wife, Hina Alvi, got out of the country before she was formally charged.  They both worked for the U.S. House of Representatives, and the matter also contained controversy about the computer systems in Congress and classified information.

The FBI affidavit supporting the initial warrant of arrest is here–

Page 8 of the affidavit describes how the FBI confronted Awan's wife as she was at the Dulles International Airport in Virginia getting ready to flee the country on 5 March 2017, but she was allowed to board a Qatar Airlines plane and flew the coop to Pakistan.  Previously, Awan wired $283,000 to Faisalabad, Pakistan.  Based on the affidavit, a criminal complaint was filed against Awan, and he was arrested and then they both were charged on 17 August 2017 in a 4-count indictment in federal court in Washington, D.C.–

In Awan's plea agreement, the government claimed that he had not done any bad acts regarding the computer systems at the House of Representatives.  His plea bargain and the factual basis are here–

The Awan case is not entirely clear or easy to interpret.  The indictment and statement of the offense (the factual basis for the plea) do not match.   Awan and his wife got the home equity line of credit loan money into her account on 18 January 2017, and it was wired to Pakistan the same day.  The loan(s) was obtained through at least one false statement.  The indictment says that Alvi asked to withdraw money from her Thrift Savings Plan (for retirement) as a U.S. civil service employee that same day, falsely saying it was for medical expenses, and got it on 22 February.  That money was then used to pay off the loan(s).  The factual basis for the plea says that the loan was paid off on 18 January by Awan using proceeds from the sale of real estate and some retirement money.

Although it may be seen as standard boilerplate, the last paragraph of the factual basis is still a bit curious in this context:  "This proffer of evidence is not intended to constitute a complete statement of all facts known by the defendant or the government, but is a minimum statement of facts intended to provide the necessary factual predicate for the guilty plea". 

By July of 2018, the game had changed.  Awan was allowed to plead guilty to count 3 of the indictment, making a false statement on a loan or credit application.  The minutes of the court clerk's docket sheet for 3 July 2018 say–

"07/03/2018 Minute Entry: Plea Agreement Hearing as to IMRAN AWAN held on 7/3/2018 before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan: Plea of GUILTY entered by IMRAN AWAN (1) as to Count 3. Defendant's oral motion to modify conditions of release; heard and GRANTED. Defendant's ankle bracelet shall be removed; defendant shall call into Pretrial Services twice a week as opposed to requiring him to report in person to Pretrial Services weekly. Sentencing Memorandum due by 8/14/2018. Sentencing set for 8/21/2018 at 11:00 AM in Courtroom 9 before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan. REFERRAL TO PROBATION OFFICE FOR EXPEDITED Presentence Investigation as to IMRAN AWAN. Defendant placed on personal recognizance. Court Reporter: Bryan Wayne; Defense Attorney: Christopher Gowen; US Attorney: Joseph Cooney; Pretrial Services: Takeisha Robinson (tb) Modified on 7/3/2018 (tb). Modified on 7/5/2018 (ztb). (Entered: 07/03/2018)".

Then yesterday, 21 August 2018, came the sentencing on the nice deal–

"08/21/2018 Minute Entry: Sentencing held on 8/21/2018 as to IMRAN AWAN (1) before Judge Tanya S. Chutkan on Count 3: Defendant sentenced to TIME SERVED. Three (3) months of supervised release. Special Assessment of $100.00. Oral motion by government to dismiss remaining counts of the indictment as to this defendant; heard and GRANTED. Defendant placed on supervised release. Court Reporter: Bryan Wayne; Defense Attorney: Christopher Gowen; US Attorney: J.P. Cooney; Prob Officer: Crystal Lustig (stand-in). (tb) Modified on 8/21/2018 (tb). (Entered: 08/21/2018)"

The charges against Awan's wife, Alvi, who was on the lam, presumably in Pakistan, were dismissed as part of the deal.

The court documents in the Awan case present a picture like the old saying, "Nothing to see here folks, just move along".


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