To paraphrase attorney Johnny Cochran’s famous line from the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial, “If it doesn’t exist, you must acquit.”
Attorney Eric Dubelier didn’t use those words, but he did point out that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against 16 Russian companies for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election included charges against one company that doesn’t exist.
Dubelier appeared Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C. The attorney was there on behalf of Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which is mentioned in Mueller’s indictment.
Concord Management and Consulting is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who according to Reuters, is believed to have extensive ties to Russia’s military and political establishment, including President Vladimir Putin.
Harvey asked Dubelier whether he was also there on behalf another company controlled by Prigozhin that was named in the indictment.
“What about Concord Catering?” Harvey asked Dubelier according to court transcripts. “The government makes an allegation that there’s some association. Do you represent them or not today? And are we arraigning them as well?”
“We’re not,” Dubelier responded. “And the reason for that, your honor, is I think we’re dealing with a situation of the government having indicted the proverbial ham sandwich.”
Dubelier said Concord Catering didn’t exist in 2016.
“That company didn’t exist as a legal entity during the time period alleged by the government,” Dubelier said. “If at some later time they show me that it did exist, we would probably represent them. But for purposes of today, no, we do not.”
The Daily Wire said the reference to indicting “a ham sandwich” likely originated from a 1985 report in the New York Daily News when New York Chief Judge Sol Wachtler told the publication that government prosecutors have so much influence over grand juries that they could get them to “indict a ham sandwich.”
The court appearance was the first by any of the Russian defendants accused by Mueller of participating in a covert social media campaign aimed in part at helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, according to the Associated Press.
Prigozhin is one of 13 Russian individuals charged in the indictment alleging a broad conspiracy that prosecutors say was carried out by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian social media troll farm, to sow discord in the U.S. political system over a three-year period that included the 2016 election.
Prigozhin’s company is accused of overseeing and providing millions of dollars in funding to Internet Research Agency.
Dubelier entered a plea of not guilty for his client.
No representatives for any of the other corporate defendants named in the indictment appeared in court.
“Alas, they are not here,” prosecutor Jeannie Rhee told the judge. “The government would be thrilled if they were here.”
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