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Africa Sting Development – “Mr. Giordanella, You Are Excused … You Are Free To Go”

In the first Africa Sting trial this past summer, Judge Richard Leon granted defendant Pankesh Patel’s Rule 29 acquittal motion at the end of the DOJ’s case as to a substantive FCPA charge.  (See here [1] for the prior post).  Judge Leon also dismissed a substantive FCPA violation as to defendant Lee Allen Tolleson and dismissed a money laundering charge as to all four defendants (Patel, Tolleson, Andrew Bigelow, and John Benson Weir).  Thereafter, Judge Leon declared a mistrial as to the remaining charges against the defendants.  (See here [2] for the prior post).  In short, the DOJ’s “turning point” prosecution did not go so well.

Undeterred, the DOJ plowed ahead with the second (of four) trials in its manufactured case against defendants John Mushriqui, Jeana Mushriqui, Patrick Caldwell, Stephen Giordanella, John Godsey, and Mark Morales.  Opening arguments were held in September – see here [3] for the prior post.  The DOJ’s case is not going so well.

Earlier today, Judge Leon ruled on defendants’ Rule 29 acquittal motions.  In a significant rebuke to the DOJ’s conspiracy charge against all defendants, Judge Leon granted defendants’ motion.  Judge Leon stated as follows.  “[V]iewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, the Court does not believe the Government has produced sufficient evidence to enable a rational trier of fact  to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that each of these six defendants participated in the overarching conspiracy charged in the superseding indictment in this case.

The only charge against Giordanella was the conspiracy charge, thus Judge Leon stated as follows.  “Mr. Giordanella, you are excused […] you are free to go.”  Giordanella was represented by Paul Calli and Stephen Bronis of Carlton Fields (see here [4] and here [5]).  In a firm release, Bronis stated as follows.  “The Court found that government had not presented sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the charged crime.  We are grateful the Court made the correct and just ruling.  Mr. Giordanella is grateful to be exonerated, and can now begin to put this unnecessary and unfortunate experience behind him.”  Calli stated as follows.  “Mr. Giordanella was innocent and should never have been accused in the conspiracy.  In many respects, Mr. Giordanella’s indictment in the DOJ’s fake Gabon sting operation conspiracy represents a prosecution at its most dangerous.”

In addition, Judge Leon granted acquittal motions as to substantive FCPA charges against defendants John and Jeana Mushriqui (counts 5 and 6 of the superseding indictment – see here [6]).  Judge Leon stated as follows.  “Neither John nor Jeana Mushriqui had, according to the evidence in this case, the requisite knowledge of the corrupt nature of the Gabon deal that would be necessary with regard to the events on May 22nd of ’09 when Ms. Mushriqui had traveled to Washington, D.C. for the pitch meeting and when a call was placed by Mr. Bistrong to Ms. Mushriqui during that meeting to discuss the deal when he was in the Middle East.”

The Mushriqui’s and the other remaining defendants still face certain other FCPA substantive charges and the defense began presenting its case this afternoon.