MOSCOW, March 26 (RAPSI, Ingrid Burke) - Richard Chichakli, an associate of convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, filed a letter Tuesday raising complaints about the US trial that led to his recent conviction.
Chichakli, a citizen of both the US and Syria, was convicted in December of one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and six counts of wire fraud.
His sentencing date had previously been set for March 14th, but various scheduling setbacks have occurred in the meantime, including the defendant’s request for a new attorney.
Chichakli had been acting in his own defense, with a stand-by attorney having been appointed for his assistance. The stand-by attorney was appointed as his lead counsel following his conviction.
A letter written by Chichakli on January 14 stated that the services of his court-appointed attorney would end as promptly as feasible.
Fleshing out his displeasure with the court-appointed attorney in a letter written on February 9, Chichakli asserted: “The defendant believes that the action or lack of action on the part of [stand-by counsel] is a ground for setting aside the jury’s verdict and granting the defendant a new trial.”
The letter added, “in order to make [matters] worse for the defense, on occasions, the court-appointed stand-by lawyer was using the court [recesses] and intermittent breaks during the [proceedings] to yell, shout, scream at the top of his [lungs] at the defendant with phrases like ‘do not [bury] the witness, you will [lose] the trial.”
The court-appointed attorney followed up with letters of his own, first noting that he did not object either to Chichakli being appointed new counsel, or to the defendant’s reappointment as pro-se counsel. Later he noted that he did not adopt Chichakli’s motion with regard to his defense work, but that he preferred to resolve the matter in the manner least damaging to Chichakli’s case.
The court appointed Mitchell Dinnnerstein as Chichakli’s new attorney on February 28. On Tuesday, Dinnerstein filed a letter on Chichakli’s behalf raising two concerns about his trial.
First, the letter stated that the court failed to rule on Chichakli’s desire to call Judge Shira Schiendlin as a witness at trial. Chichakli now requests a ruling on the matter.
Judge Schiendlin presided over the trial of Viktor Bout.
Second, Chichakli argues that the court considered “secret evidence,” unrelated to the case, in October 2013. He objects to the inclusion of the information in the first place, as well as to the fact that it may have created a bias against him.
Bout is serving a 25 year sentence in Illinois. He was convicted in November 2011 of conspiracy to murder US nationals, including military officers and employees, and of selling millions of dollars’ worth of weapons, including hundreds of portable surface-to-air missiles and over 20,000 AK-47s, to the Colombian rebel group FARC.
Bout has consistently denied the charges against him. Russia attempted to have him extradited from the United States in line with the 1983 Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, but without success.