Second Trump co-conspirator indicted
Thomas Joseph Barrack, 74, was an informal adviser during Trump’s first run for president and later chaired his inaugural committee. Screen grab
Billionaire campaign adviser Tom Barrack, puts
up $250m bond; will be prosecuted in the EDNY
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Charged with obstructing justice and lying to the FBI, the billionaire former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump was ordered to pay a $250 million bond, wear a GPS ankle bracelet and surrender his passport ahead of an appearance next week in Brooklyn federal court.
Thomas Joseph Barrack, 74, was an informal adviser during Trump’s first run for president and later chaired his inaugural committee. He is accused of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates, both during and after the 2016 election.
Prosecutors said earlier this week in a seven-count indictment that Barrack met with senior UAE government officials and advised them to create a “wish list” of U.S. foreign-policy items they’d like to see accomplished in various increments of the Trump administration: the first 100 days, six months, one year and four years.
Barrack voluntarily met with FBI special agents in June of 2019. There, he denied that his co-defendant, Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi, had asked him to act on behalf of the UAE — one of what prosecutors say was several false statements by Barrack.
For example, text messages from March 2017 included in the indictment show Alshahhi arranging a meeting with an unnamed Emirati official.
“No need to brief u. Then the big guy. ... They have high expectations from us. They love you,” Alshahhi told Barrack.
In addition to Barrack and Alshahhi, a citizen of the UAE, prosecutors indicted Matthew Grimes, an employee of the Los Angeles-based global investment management firm where Barrack served as executive chairman.
Grimes, arrested the same day as Barrack, was also released on Friday, putting up a $5 million bond. Alshahhi, also known as “Rashid Al Malik” and “Rashid Al‑Malik,” remains at large.
Both Grimes and Barrack will be subject to a curfew and travel restrictions that will be monitored by GPS ankle devices.
In Los Angeles, July 23, US Magistrate Judge Patricia Donahue ordered Barrack to surrender his passport and to “remain and travel” in the company of his attorney, Matt Herrington of the Washington firm Paul Hastings.
The men are ordered to remain within the Central District of California before reporting to their arraignment on Monday in the Eastern District of New York, after which they must remain in those two districts or in the Southern District of New York. The hub of New York's Eastern District is Brooklyn, and the Southern covers Manhattan.
Barrack’s colossal bond is being secured in part by three homes: those of his ex-wife, Rachelle Barrack; son, T.J. Barrack; and Jonathan Grunzweig, chief investment officer of Colony Capital, where Barrack was previously CEO and executive chair.
Barrack, whose net worth is estimated to be around $1 billion, also placed $5 million in cash in a trust account at Paul Hastings, pending further direction from the court.
“Those funds are in the trust account as we speak,” Herrington told Donahue on Friday.
Mark J. Lesko, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, called the alleged conduct “nothing short of a betrayal” of U.S. officials, including Trump himself.
“Through this indictment, we are putting everyone — regardless of their wealth or perceived political power — on notice that the Department of Justice will enforce the prohibition of this sort of undisclosed foreign influence,” Lesko said in a statement.
Barrack’s arrest follows recent prosecutorial activity closing in on Trump’s inner circle, including the recent federal indictment of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg in Manhattan and an ongoing criminal investigation into Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
BROOKLYN (CN) — As R. Kelly heads into trial on racketeering charges stemming from an alleged decades-long sex ring involving underage girls, his legal team has upended itself, with two attorneys officially leaving the case and two more joining at the eleventh hour.
The R&B singer is accused of running a scheme to kidnap and coerce women and underage into having sex with him, which included producing child pornography.
Kelly, a 54-year-old known for hits like “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Ignition (Remix),” is also accused of concealing from a victim that he had herpes and multiple Mann Act violations listed in his nine-count indictment.
At a hearing on July 15, Kelly’s Michigan-based attorney Nicole Blank Becker faced questions for the second time from a Brooklyn federal judge regarding conversations and meet-ups with two alleged victims who may testify at trial.
Joining from Illinois via video conference, Atty. Gloria Rodriguez, who represented the two women in 2019, described Becker repeatedly contacting her clients despite being asked not to do so.
Rodriguez said Becker gave her clients advice that countered her own, though she did not elaborate on the record, citing attorney-client privilege. And when the women ended their relationship with Rodriguez, they asked that their file be sent to Becker.
The women were previously identified in court as Kelly’s former live-in girlfriends, Joycelyn Savage, and Azriel Clary, though Clary is referred to as Jane Doe #5 in court records.
For her part, Becker holds that she never offered any legal advice to the two women, but did meet up with them to walk them into court, provided court dates when they asked, and joined the pair at a Dunkin’ Donuts and another cafe.
After Becker referred to Savage and Clary as “the girls,” U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly shot back, “The women. They are adult women.”
Moments later, Becker referred to “the girls” a second time and was again admonished. “It is 2021. We are talking about women in their 20s,” Donnelly said.
Apologizing, Becker noted that she hadn’t seen the two in a few years. “They were women then, too,” Donnelly replied.
After holding an ex parte discussion with Rodriguez, Donnelly turned to Kelly — whose fully name is Robert Kelly — to confirm that he understood the potential risks of having Becker continue to represent him.
Wearing a khaki short-sleeved button-down shirt, Kelly confirmed that he is vaccinated against Covid-19 and removed his face mask to answer questions, speaking for the first time at his recent pretrial appearances in Brooklyn.
Kelly said he understood that Becker may be barred from questioning certain witnesses, and that it was possible Becker could act in a way that shielded her from ethical violation accusations, “instead of doing what’s best for me in my trial.”
“I think they are, first of all, rumors — and that’s all they are to me,” Kelly said.
Even so, Becker may want to “make sure the rumor didn’t get out,” Donnelly clarified.
Keeping Becker as his counsel, Kelly opted for some consistency on the team that has otherwise seen a dramatic shake-up just weeks before trial. Donnelly on Thursday told Chicago-based attorneys Steven A. Greenberg and Michael I. Leonard, who filed a motion to withdraw on June 8, that they can now be excused.
Greenberg, who joined the hearing via telephone, said that he’s still siding with Kelly, albeit off the case.
“We have always believed that this case is without merit and are disappointed that we will not be able to win R Kelly’s case for him,” Greenberg wrote in an email. “We certainly will be rooting for him.”
While the two departing attorneys’ motion was pending, Kelly hired New York’s Devereaux Leon Cannick, who joined the team on June 21.
Cannick, of the firm Aiello & Cannick, told the court on Thursday that yet another attorney will be joining the team later that day — Calvin Scholar — but promised not to request to delay the trial as a result. In addition to Becker, Cannick, and soon Scholar, Kelly is represented by New York attorney Thomas Farinella.
Donnelly offered attorneys a preview of her courtroom standards at the hearing.
“This is a fairly low-drama court room, and I would like to keep it that way,” said Donnelly, who has repeatedly declined to get into disputes between the departing and remaining members of Kelly’s counsel.
She is “not a fan” of sidebars, Donnelly noted, finding them unnecessary and distracting to a jury. Nor does Donnelly permit “extended conversation” about objections — saying the word is enough, she said. “I usually understand what it is,” and will ask for more information if need be.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Aug. 9, and openings will take place on Aug. 18.