U.S. Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn today denied a request from NYC Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s attorney for delay in her preliminary hearing scheduled for January 13, 2014
In a letter dt January 6, 2014, Devyani Khobragade had requested a 30-day delay in her hearing.
Devyani said in the January 6 letter that the January 13, 2014 preliminary hearing date was affecting her plea negotiations with the U.S. government.
But the government on January 7, 2014 opposed Devyani’s request for a postponement in the preliminary hearing date. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wrote to Judge Netburn that the plea discussions were not at a stage that merited postponement in the indictment date.
Bharara also told the court that plea discussions could continue even after Devyani’s indictment.
Devyani Khobragade was arrested on December 12, 2013 and charged with Visa fraud and lying to the U.S. government about wages to be paid to her Indian maid Sangeeta Richard.
Devyani is desperately trying to avoid being indicted (a formal filing of charges of a crime).
By law, Devyani must be indicted by January 13, 2014.
In a letter to the court dt January 7, 2014, Devyani’s attorney Daniel Arshack wrote that “the issuance of an indictment is a polarizing event and one which cannot easily be undone.”
But Judge Netburn was not convinced with the arguments presented by Devyani via her attorney.
Here’s an excerpt from Judge Netburn’s ruling today:
Because a modification of the hearing date will not itself alter the time period for the filing of an indictment or information, the defendant’s concerns regarding the pressures of an impending indictment on plea negotiations will not grant her the relief she seeks. Therefore, good cause has not been demonstrated, and the defendant’s request for an adjournment of the preliminary hearing date is DENIED.
Devyani Indictment on January 13?
Given Judge Netburn’s ruling today, Devyani could be indicted on January 13, 2014 unless there is a plea deal before that date.
Once the indictment comes, more unsavory details of the case could surface dragging Devyani further into the mire, create a PR nightmare and complicate the efforts of both India and the U.S. to resolve the case, which has turned into a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.