BY JONATHAN STEMPEL
A federal judge on Wednesday delayed the trial of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, on charges of violating campaign finance laws to Feb. 1, 2021 because of difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The four-month delay means Parnas and Fruman, who were involved in an alleged Ukraine pressure campaign that underlay Trump’s recent impeachment trial, will likely not be in the media glare in the final weeks of Trump’s reelection campaign leading up to the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Their trial had been scheduled for Oct. 5, and was expected to last two to three weeks.
The Ukraine-born Parnas and Belarus-born Fruman were charged over their alleged use of a shell company to make an illegal $325,000 donation to a committee supporting Trump’s re-election.
Two co-defendants, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, face charges over a separate alleged scheme to channel money from a Russian businessman to U.S. politicians to support a marijuana business.
The delay was ordered by U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan. Lawyers for the defendants had requested the delay, and the U.S. Department of Justice did not object.
In an April 14 letter to the judge, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan said pandemic-related travel and social-distancing restrictions had limited the availability of witnesses and grand jurors, causing the government to push back its timeline to possibly amend its October 2019 indictment.
He also said the restrictions have made it harder for the defendants to prepare for trial.
Oetken said the ends of justice outweighed the interests of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial, for the reasons Berman cited.
All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty. Giuliani has not been criminally charged and has denied wrongdoing.
Trump was acquitted in January in the impeachment trial, which included allegations that Ukraine had been pressured to investigate Joe Biden, the former U.S. vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and his son Hunter.