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U.S. judge declines to jail two men accused of impersonating federal agents -Breaking


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – An American flag is waved outside of the U.S. Department of Justice Building, Washington, U.S.A, December 2, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner


By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A U.S. judge refused to place two suspects in jail for impersonating federal agents. He also denied Secret Service employees gifts. This was a setback to prosecutors who had argued the defendants were a threat and needed to be held.

Arian Taherzadeh (40) and Haider Ali (35) were both arrested last week. They are accused of giving gifts totaling thousands of dollars, such as iPhones and rent-free apartments, to Secret Service agents. One of these Secret Service agents was the one that protected Jill Biden, first lady. Protecting the President and top U.S. officials is the Secret Service.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey declared that “there’s no indication that national security information was compromised”.

Harvey directed both men that they remain at home, under GPS surveillance, and with their parents. He also ordered them to surrender their passports, and to avoid embassies and airports. Harvey granted permission to extend his stay until Wednesday morning, while the government considers appealing.

Judge said that prosecutors didn’t prove that the defendants attempted to infiltrate Secret Service for nefarious purpose and that the suspects were “spectacularly exposed” so that it is unlikely that they will continue acting as agents.

Harvey claimed that no defendant has been charged with a violent offense and will not be sentenced to a harsh prison sentence if found guilty. This is contrary the prosecution’s assertions they present a risk to the public. Harvey stated that impersonation cases have occurred in “significantly worse” and more severe instances than those presented to the court.

Harvey stated that he believes the prosecution has enough evidence to convict the accused.

Harvey’s inability to convince Harvey to hold the defendants in custody appeared to be due in large part to the speed of Harvey’s investigation.

On Tuesday night, Joshua Rothstein, a federal prosecutor, told Judge that the FBI had to act before it could proceed against them after an investigator from the Secret Service for unknown reasons alerted them they were being questioned.

Rothstein stated that the tip-off was made after an internal investigation by the Secret Service resulted in four Secret Service agents being placed on administrative leave to accept gifts from Ali and Taherzadeh.

Rothstein stated that as part the internal investigation, an investigator reached out to Mr. Taherzadeh by email, requesting information. Mr. Taherzadeh answered.

Rothstein failed to explain the reason that Taherzadeh was informed by the Secret Service Investigator about this inquiry.

Although there was no evidence that the tip-off was meant to protect defendants, it caused the Justice Department’s to rush to approve a warrant for the court the following day. This was the warrant that was issued before the arrests on Wednesday.

“Because this matter is pending adjudication by a federal court, it is not appropriate for the Secret Service to make any comments on prosecutorial statements,” a Secret Service spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.