Scientist jailed in Calif. freed after court win

AP News
Posted: Nov 02, 2011 6:29 PM
Scientist jailed in Calif. freed after court win

A scientist was freed from a federal prison in California on Wednesday, more than a week after his conviction for violating the Iran trade embargo was tossed out by a federal appeals court in New York.

U.S. District Judge John Keenan signed the order freeing Mahmoud Reza Banki while prosecutors appeal an Oct. 24 federal appeals court decision that tossed out the trade embargo conviction and ordered a new trial on charges that he participated in an unlicensed money transfer business. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left in place a conviction for making false statements.

Banki, 35, has served 21 months of a 2 1/2-year sentence he received in June 2010. His lawyer, Marc Greenwald, said he was freed from a prison outside Los Angeles.

At trial, defense lawyers had argued that Banki only knew he was receiving money from relatives in Iran when $3.4 million was deposited in his bank account. The government said he used some of the money to buy a $2.4 million Manhattan condominium and to make payments on his credit charges.

The Ivy League-trained Banki had worked for a management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., before he was charged with violating the Iran trade embargo, initiated in 1995 to prohibit U.S. citizens from supplying goods, services or technology to Iran or its government.

At Wednesday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Danya Perry told Keenan the government would ask the appeals court to reconsider its decision over the next month.

Keenan said he planned to have the case transferred to another judge and that he believed it appropriate for Banki to remain free while the government considers whether to retry him while it pursues an appeal. He was freed on his own recognizance.

Banki plans to live in Los Angeles, where his mother resides.

Greenwald said Banki was "gratified that the court of appeals recognized it's not a crime to do what he did," Greenwald said.