Convicted Russian arms dealer Bout loses bid for new U.S. trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 26, 2015 6:38 PM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Manhattan federal judge said convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence, does not deserve a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin on Monday said Bout, 48, did not meet the high legal standard of showing that his November 2011 jury conviction should be thrown out.

Jurors convicted Bout of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers through his agreement to sell arms to informants posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which the U.S. government had deemed a foreign terrorist organization, and conspiring to acquire and export anti-aircraft missiles.

Bout had been arrested in Bangkok, Thailand in March 2008 on weapons trafficking charges following a global sting operation.

In seeking a new trial, Bout claimed he could not have been involved in a conspiracy with former business associate Andrew Smulian, who testified against him at trial, because Smulian was a government agent throughout the investigation.

Bout also said other newly discovered evidence contradicted Smulian's trial testimony, and undermined the indictment.

Scheindlin, however, said Bout's evidence could have been discovered before trial, would not have undermined the jury's finding that he and Smulian were co-conspirators, or would not have affected the trial's outcome.

"Bout fails, as a matter of law," to meet the standards for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, which is granted "only in extraordinary circumstances," the judge wrote.

Alexey Tarasov, a lawyer for Bout, had no immediate comment.

In Sept. 2013, the federal appeals court in Manhattan also refused to overturn Bout's conviction, which he claimed followed a "vindictive" prosecution and his improper extradition from Thailand.

Bout is in a medium-security prison in Marion, Illinois, and not eligible for release until Jan. 20, 2030. He was the subject of a 2007 book, "Merchant of Death."

The case is U.S. v. Bout, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 08-cr-00365.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Christian Plumb)