Judge won’t jail indicted Giuliani associate pending trial
A federal judge declined Tuesday to revoke bail for Lev Parnas, rejecting prosecutors’ claims that the indicted Rudy Giuliani associate posed an “extraordinary risk of flight” due to his association with a “foreign benefactor” identified in court as Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.
US District Court Judge Paul Oetken also questioned prosecutors’ assertions that Parnas had misstated information about his assets and income. The judge said that while the information Parnas provided “might have violated the spirit” of disclosure requests, “I don’t know that it rises to the level of intentional misstatements warranting the revocation of bail.”
Parnas, who was indicted in October alongside three others for allegedly violating campaign finance laws, will remain in home detention in Florida. Prosecutors had asked the judge the revoke bail after Parnas’ attorney sought to have his bail conditions relaxed.
Tuesday’s bail hearing provided additional information about Parnas’ ties to Firtash, who is living in Austria while fighting bribery charges in the US. Prosecutors disclosed that an attorney for Firtash paid $1 million to Parnas’ wife, Svetlana, in September, a transaction that Assistant US Attorney Rebekah Donaleski described as suspicious.
“It is an unsecured, undocumented loan to a housewife,” Donaleski said. “That makes no sense, your honor.”
Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy identified the Firtash lawyer who paid the money as Ralph Oswald Isenegger, a Swiss national. Isenegger didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Prosecutors had said in a filing that the money wired to Svetlana Parnas’ account came from a Russian bank account, a detail neither prosecutors nor defense counsel addressed in court.
Parnas’ ties to Firtash hadn’t been secret. The law firm diGenova & Toensing, which also represents Firtash, has said it hired Parnas as a translator for the oligarch, who doesn’t speak English.
But the $1 million payment to Parnas’ wife — in addition to $200,000 Parnas earned for four months of services, according to his lawyer — adds to the questions about the nature of Parnas’ work.
In court, Donaleski referenced a CNN story that quoted Parnas as having boasted to others: “I’m the best-paid interpreter in the world.”
Parnas’ lawyer said Tuesday that after he inquired with Isenegger about the money wired to Svetlana Parnas, Isenegger wrote to her and said he wanted the $1 million returned.
He also said Parnas “has absolutely no continuing relationship with Mr. Firtash” and was no longer working for Joseph diGenova or Victoria Toensing. He suggested those relationships had disintegrated because Parnas “has burned his bridges” by indicating he wants to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry.
Prosecutors also said there were still many questions about Parnas’ finances, even suggesting he may have bank accounts they were unaware of.
To drive home the point, Donaleski said the government learned from pre-trial services that Parnas, who is unemployed, had hired armed security guards to accompany his children to school.
“Who is paying for that?” she asked.
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.