Judge clears path for Chichakli sentencing

A federal judge in New York has cleared the path for the sentencing of convicted Viktor Bout accomplice Richard Chichakli after dismissing the last of the defendant’s legal objections.

US District Judge William H. Pauley ruled Oct. 16 that he was denying more than a dozen post-trial motions raised by Chichakli, a former Dallas accountant and financial adviser to Bout who was found guilty by a federal jury in December 2013. Chichakli was convicted of conspiring with Bout to violate U.S. financial sanctions by trying to buy air cargo planes, as well as on money laundering and wire fraud conspiracy charges and several counts of wire fraud.

Chichakli, who insisted on conducting his own legal defense, had filed motions for a new trial based on a flurry of complaints. He alleged the government mistreated him and obstructed his fact-finding in his New York detention center cell, failed to provide a speedy trial, did not turn over evidence that could have been used at trial and relied on witnesses who committed perjury. Chichakli also claimed he was harmed by two court-appointed lawyers who he spurned. And he argued that his conviction was marred by juror misconduct.

Chichakli also questioned the judge’s pre-trial decisions turning down a request to hear testimony from a federal narcotics agent and from the federal judge who oversaw Bout’s 2011 trial. Bout was convicted in 2011 on several conspiracy charges, including an attempt to kill Americans. Sentenced in April 2012 to 25 years in prison, Bout is serving time at a medium-security federal penal facility in Joliet, Ill.

In his 35-page ruling, Pauley recalled reminding Chichakli that if he chose to represent himself in court, he would be responsible for any erroneous legal decisions.

“If you make the decision to represent yourself and you make mistakes during the trial you’re not going to be able to come back and complain about those mistakes to the Court of Appeals if you are convicted,” Pauley told Chichakli.