The trial of Manssor Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American car salesman accused of plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was postponed to January.
U.S. District Judge John Keenan in New York today agreed to delay Arbabsiar’s trial until Jan. 7. He said the original Oct. 22 trial date will now be a hearing to determine whether to grant Arbabsiar’s motion to dismiss the indictment or suppress his confession.
Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri, who the U.S. said was a member of Iran’s Qods Force, were charged in a five-count indictment filed in October with plotting to hire a member of a Mexican drug cartel to kill Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir in the U.S. The person the two men approached to be their assassin was a U.S. informant, prosecutors said. Arbabsiar has pleaded not guilty while Shakuri is at large, prosecutors said.
“I want this case to go to trial,” Keenan told lawyers today. “All that seems to happen here is every time I come to court, somebody wants to adjourn it.”
Keenan said today prosecutors had asked for a brief postponement of a pretrial hearing. Sabrina Shroff, Arbabsiar’s lawyer, told the judge today that she may also need more time because prosecutors yesterday turned over a 21-page doctor’s report about her client, and she may hire an expert to assess it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Glen Kopp in court identified the doctor as Susan Brandon.
Brandon is chief of research from the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, an interagency group of the U.S. Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After the hearing, Shroff said she was still receiving evidence about her client’s case from prosecutors in a process known as discovery.
“One can only hope that discovery is now complete,” Shroff said. “It’s hard to prepare for trial when discovery isn’t complete.”
Dr. Michael First, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University hired by the defense to evaluate Arbabsiar, said in a report filed July 16 that Arbabsiar suffers from bipolar disorder and was “likely cycling in and out of manic episodes” that include symptoms of inflated self-esteem and grandiosity during the period the government says he committed the crimes.
The U.S. State Department has described the Qods Force as an arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Other Qods Force members in Iran were involved and helped to bankroll the plot, which was to have cost $1.5 million, prosecutors said.
At Arbabsiar’s arraignment in October, Keenan said evidence the U.S. gathered against Arbabsiar includes recordings of conversations made by investigators working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI. Some documents include an alleged admission of guilt and needed to be translated, Keenan said at the time.
The case is U.S. v. Arbabsiar, 11-cr-00897, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).