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United States v. Papadopoulos

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 25, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 7, 2018, the Court sentenced Defendant George Papadopoulos to 14 days of incarceration, one year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $9, 500 for making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. The time to appeal his conviction or sentence expired on September 25, 2018, and he is scheduled to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his term of incarceration on Monday, November 26, 2018.

         Over the past week, Papadopoulos has filed two motions seeking to delay his surrender date. First, on November 16, 2018, he filed a motion requesting that the Court “continue [his] bail pending [the] outcome of In re: Grand Jury Investigation, No. 18-3052 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 14, 2018), ” Dkt. 57, an appeal currently before the D.C. Circuit challenging the appointment of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III. According to Papadopoulos, that appeal raises “a substantial question” and, if the D.C. Circuit concludes that the Special Counsel's appointment was unlawful, his conviction must be set aside. Id. at 6. Under these circumstances, Papadopoulos continues, it would be unjust to require that he serve his sentence before the D.C. Circuit renders its decision. Id. at 14. Second, on November 21, 2018, he filed a motion seeking to stay his surrender date at least until this Court decides whether to grant his motion for bail pending the outcome of the In re: Grand Jury Investigation appeal and, if this Court denies that motion, until he has had the opportunity to appeal that decision to the D.C. Circuit. Dkt. 58. The Special Counsel opposes both motions.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court agrees with the Special Counsel that Papadopoulos has failed to carry his burden of demonstrating that a delay in the execution of his sentence is warranted and will, accordingly, DENY both motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 5, 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Dkt. 23. In the course of entering that plea, he admitted under oath that he made “material false statements and material omissions” during an interview with the FBI, which took place on January 27, 2017. Dkt. 19 at 1 (Statement of Offense (“SOF”) ¶ 1). At the time of the interview, the FBI had “an open investigation into the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.” Id. Papadopoulos admitted in the Statement of Offense and at the plea hearing that he made the following material false statements and omissions:

         First, he told the FBI “that his interactions with an overseas professor, who . . . Papadopoulos understood to have substantial connections to Russian government officials, occurred before . . . Papadopoulos became a foreign policy advisor to the” Trump presidential campaign (the “Campaign”). Id. at 2 (SOF ¶ 2a). He stated “multiple times” that the “information” he learned from the professor-that “the Russians possess[ed] ‘dirt' on then-candidate Hillary Clinton in the form ‘thousands of emails'”-was communicated to him “prior to joining the Campaign.” Id. In truth, however, Papadopoulos “met the [p]rofessor on or about March 14, 2016, ” after “he learned he would be an advisor to the Campaign.” Id. Papadopoulos admitted that the professor “only took an interest in [him] because of his status with the Campaign, ” and he admitted that the professor told him about the “‘thousands of emails' on April 26, 2016, when [he] had been a foreign policy advisor to the Campaign for over a month.” Id.

         Second, “Papadopoulos . . . told the investigating agents that the professor was ‘a nothing' and ‘just a guy talk[ing] up connections or something.'” Id. at 2 (SOF ¶ 2b). In truth, however, Papadopoulos “understood that the professor had substantial connections to Russian government officials (and had met with some of those officials in Moscow immediately prior to telling . . . Papadopoulos about the ‘thousands of emails').” Id. Indeed, “over a period of months, ” Papadopoulos “repeatedly sought to use the professor's Russian connections in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.” Id. Papadopoulos also “failed to inform investigators that the [p]rofessor introduced him to” an individual in Moscow, who told Papadopoulos that he had connections to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (“MFA”). Id. at 11 (SOF ¶ 29). Although Papadopoulos and “the Russian MFA connection had multiple conversations over Skype and email about setting ‘the groundwork' for a ‘potential' meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials, ” id at 6 (SOF ¶ 11), Papadopoulos failed to disclose this connection, “despite being asked if he had met with Russian nationals or ‘[a]nyone with a Russian accent' during the Campaign, ” id. at 11 (SOF ¶ 29) (alteration in original).

         Third, Papadopoulos “claimed he met a certain female Russian national before he joined the Campaign” and that “their communications consisted of emails such as, ‘Hi, how are you?'” Id. at 2-3 (SOF ¶ 2c). In truth, however, he had met her “on or about March 24, 2016, after he had become an adviser to the Campaign; he believed that she had connections to Russian government officials; and he sought to use her Russian connections over a period of months in an effort to arrange a meeting between the Campaign and Russian government officials.” Id. In an email to “the Campaign Supervisor, ” Papadopoulos described her as “Putin's niece” and “stated that the topic of their discussion was ‘to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump.'” Id. at 4 (SOF ¶ 8).

         On February 16, 2017, the FBI interviewed Papadopoulos for a second time with his counsel present. Id. at 12 (SOF ¶ 32). During that interview, “Papadopoulos reiterated his purported willingness to cooperate with the FBI's investigation, ” id., but he failed to correct his prior false statements. The next day, moreover, he “deactivated his Facebook account, which . . . contained information about communications he had with the [p]rofessor and the Russian MFA Connection, ” and “created a new Facebook account.” Id. (SOF ¶ 33). “On or about February 23, 2017, [he] ceased using his cell phone number and began using a new number.” Id. (SOF ¶ 34). Papadopoulos was arrested on July 27, 2017. Id.

         Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Special Counsel agreed not to further prosecute Papadopoulos for “conduct set forth in the . . . Statement of the Offense” and agreed “that a 2-level reduction” in the Sentencing Guidelines' base offense level would “be appropriate . . ., provided that [Papadopoulos] clearly demonstrate[d] acceptance of responsibility . . . [and] adhere[d] to every provision of th[e] Agreement.” Dkt. 18 at 2. Papadopoulos, in turn, agreed to “waive the right to appeal [his] sentence . . ., except to the extent the Court sentence[d] [him] above the statutory maximum or guidelines range . . . or [to the extent he] claims that [he] received ineffective assistance of counsel.” Id. at 6. In addition, he waived “any right to challenge [his] conviction . . . or sentence . . . or otherwise attempt to modify or change the sentence or the manner in which it was determined in any collateral attack, including, but not limited to, a motion brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), except to the extent such a motion is based on newly discovered evidence or on a claim that [he] received ineffective assistance of counsel.” Id. at 7.

         On September 7, 2018, the Court sentenced Papadopoulos to a within-guidelines sentence of 14 days of incarceration, one year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $9, 500. The Court allowed Papadopoulos to self-surrender at an institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons, as notified by the Probation Office. Under these terms, Papadopoulos is due to begin serving his term of incarceration on Monday, November 26, 2018. Dkt. 57 at 5.

         On November 16, 2018-more than a year after he entered his guilty plea and more than two months after the Court imposed his sentence-Papadopoulos filed the instant motion to “continue bail pending the decision of the [D.C. Circuit] in In re: Grand Jury Investigation, No. 18-3052.” Dkt. 57 at 15. Five days later, he filed a further motion, seeking to stay his surrender date pending the resolution of his motion to continue bail by this Court and, if this Court denies the requested relief, by the Court of Appeals. Dkt. 58. Papadopoulos did not file a timely appeal of his conviction or sentence and, to date, he has not brought a collateral challenge of any type to his conviction or sentence.

         II. ...


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