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In Well-Publicized Case, Circuit Denies Arms Trafficker New Trial

In United States v. Viktor Bout, 15-3592, the Second Circuit (Walker, Hall, Chin) issued a summary order affirming the decision of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Scheindlin, J.) denying the defendant’s motion for a new trial.  Bout was convicted following trial on four counts arising from a sting operation that involved Bout’s participation in a conspiracy to sell 100 surface-to-air missiles to the Colombian terrorist group Fuerzas Armadas Revoluncionarias de Colombia (“FARC”), and sentenced to 300 months in prison. 

This case received considerable media attention.  Bout was described by the government in the course of the prosecution as “a threat to the United States and to the international community based on his reported history of arming some of the world's most violent and destabilizing dictators and regimes.”[1]  In response, the government of Russia defended Bout’s innocence and pledged to seek his return “to the motherland.”[2]

On appeal, Bout argued that the district court abused its discretion in concluding that certain evidence he put forth did not warrant a new trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33.  With one exception, the Second Circuit held that none of the evidence was “newly discovered,” as is required to justify a new trial, and that even the “new” evidence did not warrant a new trial.  The panel also concluded that the court did not err in refusing to dismiss the indictment, an “extraordinary remedy” that was not justified here.  Finally, the Second Circuit agreed that none of the evidence Bout proffered warranted an evidentiary hearing.  The district court, the panel concluded, “did not exceed the bounds of its broad discretion” in denying Bout’s motion.

[1] United States v. Bout, 08 Cr. 365 (SAS) (Aug. 2, 2011).


-By Elena Steiger Reich and Harry Sandick