The Justice Department abandoned one of the last prosecutions stemming from investigations into alleged foreign influence over Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In a court filing Monday, prosecutors indicated they’re giving up their long-running quest to convict Bijan Rafiekian, a California businessman and former business partner of Trump ally Michael Flynn, on charges of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey amid Trump’s successful White House bid seven years ago, Politico reports. It’s a bitter pill for prosecutors who convinced a jury in Alexandria, Va., to return two felony guilty verdicts against Rafiekian — better known as Kian — in a week-long trial in 2019 and only about four hours of deliberations. Rafiekian chose not to take the standl.
U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga became convinced that the guilty verdicts were not justified by the evidence prosecutors presented. He set aside the verdicts two months later, prompting years of additional litigation that included two trips to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. The notice the Justice Department submitted in federal court in Alexandria, Va., signaling an end to the case, offered little insight into the decision to throw in the towel. It said the appellate court’s stance played a role in prosecutors opting to give up. “After carefully considering the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in this case and the principles of federal prosecution, the United States believes it is not in the public interest to pursue the case against defendant Bijan Rafiekian further,” said Justice’s National Security Division and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Alexandria.