By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday delayed the criminal trial of two former associates of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani on campaign finance charges, reflecting difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan scheduled the trial of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and two other defendants for March 1, 2021, one month later than planned and five months after the original Oct. 5, 2020 trial date.
Defense lawyers said a delay was needed because they had large amounts of evidence to review and difficulties meeting with witnesses because of travel restrictions.
The judge also noted that prosecutors issued an amended indictment just three weeks ago, and that the Manhattan federal court has few courtrooms equipped to safely try four defendants, each with his own lawyers.
“Everything is happening more slowly than it otherwise would,” Oetken said. He said the courthouse’s first two criminal trials since March are scheduled to begin next week.
The Ukraine-born Parnas and Belarus-born Fruman were charged over their alleged use of a shell company to make an illegal $325,000 donation to a committee supporting Trump’s re-election.
In the new indictment, prosecutors added charges accusing Parnas and U.S.-born David Correia of conspiring to induce people to plow more than $2 million in their insurance company Fraud Guarantee, but spending much of it on rent, luxury car leasing payments, political donations and other expenses.
Correia and the fourth defendant, Ukraine-born Andrey Kukushkin, also face charges over a separate alleged scheme to channel donations to U.S. politicians from a Russian businessman to support a proposed marijuana business.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges in the original indictment.
Giuliani has not been criminally charged and has denied wrongdoing. He told Reuters last October he was paid $500,000 for work he did for Fraud Guarantee.
The case is U.S. v. Parnas et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-cr-00725.
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