Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ex-Fox exec Hernan Lopez seeks dismissal of FIFA soccer bribery charges

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Former Fox International Channels CEO Hernan Lopez is challenging his indictment on charges related to an international soccer scandal, alleging the details surrounding it are murky and there’s a chance it is procedurally invalid.

Lopez, who’s now CEO of podcast company Wondery, was among more than a dozen people allegedly complicit in a wide-ranging criminal scheme involving worldwide soccer tournaments and events.

He’s facing wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges for allegedly bribing officials in connection with the Copa Libertadores broadcasts and to obtain confidential information about bidding for U.S. broadcast rights for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments.

The initial indictment was filed in May 2015 and another was filed in November 2015. Lopez wasn’t charged until the third iteration, which was unsealed on April 6 of this year.

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His attorneys from Spertus Lendes & Umhofer argue the third superseding indictment charging Lopez showed up on the docket March 18 — the same day Chief Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf issued an administrative order addressing the effects of COVID-19 and noted that because of the pandemic “no regular grand jury in this district has had a quorum since March 13.”

Lopez is asking a New York federal judge to either dismiss the charge or order the disclosure of details about the grand jury proceeding — including the date on which it voted on the superseding indictment, whether it achieved a quorum each day it received evidence and on the day it voted, and the number of jurors who concurred. The document is date stamped by the court clerk, but the bill attached to the superseding indictment isn’t dated like the initial indictment was.

“Since the Superseding Indictment issued, the government has asserted that the grand jury had a quorum at all relevant times and that the Superseding Indictment was ‘voted on/returned by the grand jury on March 18, 2020, the date reflected in the clerk’s filing stamp,'” states the filing.

“But, at the very least, there appears to be tension between a grand jury vote on March 18, 2020, at which a quorum had to have been present in order for the Superseding Indictment to have been properly returned, and the Chief Judge’s Administrative Order.”

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While confidentiality can protect the integrity of grand jury proceedings, the filing argues the need to prevent injustice here outweighs the need for secrecy. “Because Mr. Lopez seeks neither transcripts nor witness and juror identities, nor the vote of any particular juror, there is no danger of chilling grand jury deliberations or the willingness of witnesses to testify.”

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