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Indicted ex-FBI informant’s lawyers may be trying to help him flee the US, judge says

By Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

(CNN) — A federal judge in California said Friday that he believes defense attorneys for Alexander Smirnov may be trying to “facilitate his absconding from the United States.”

Smirnov, the former FBI informant indicted for lying about President Joe Biden’s family and their alleged dealings in Ukraine, was released from custody by a judge in Nevada earlier this week, but then quickly re-arrested by the FBI. His second arrest Thursday was on a new warrant for the exact same charges.

Prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to keep Smirnov detained after the first hearing and have repeatedly argued that he poses a flight risk, particularly because he claims to have a significant number of foreign contacts abroad.

In a brief order, district Judge Otis Wright, who will oversee the criminal case against Smirnov in California, raised the possibility that Smirnov’s defense lawyers might be trying to make it easier for him to flee the United States.

The judge did not provide evidence or explain his thinking.

“It has come to this Court’s attention that counsel for defendant has sought an emergency hearing in the District of Nevada to arrange the release of Defendant Smirnov, likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States,” Wright wrote.

Wright has scheduled a detention hearing for Smirnov in his Los Angeles courtroom for Monday morning.

In a court filing Friday arguing for his release, Smirnov’s attorneys wrote that the allegation they may be trying to facilitate Smirnov leaving the US is wrong.

“Thus, in ordering Mr. Smirnov summarily rearrested, detained, and brought to California, this Court stated flatly that – in doing their jobs and representing their client – defense counsel was ‘likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States,’” his lawyers wrote. “The suggestion that defense counsel is participating in an unlawful plot by advocating for release… is wrong.”

Meanwhile, Smirnov’s attorneys have also appealed his current detention to a higher court, saying that their client has a right to have a hearing in Nevada before being transferred to California, and that Wright overstepped his authority by signing a new arrest warrant without a hearing.

“This is a case of national importance. As a result, the public should have confidence that it will be conducted consistent with the rule of law,” Smirnov’s attorneys wrote. “In this case, the Court has prejudged the detention issue.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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