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HindustanTimes Sun,28 Dec 2014

Devyani in plea talks, indictment looms this week

Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times  Washington, January 07, 2014
First Published: 22:23 IST(7/1/2014) | Last Updated: 13:37 IST(8/1/2014)

Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office is moving to indict diplomat Devyani Khobragade sometime this week, opposing her lawyer’s plea for more time.

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The indictment has to be filed within 30 days of arrest. The December 12, 2013, arrest and strip-search of Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her nanny have put India-US ties under strain.

Bharara’s office has not indicated a date for filing the indictment, but told a New York court it does not need extra time.

His office also confirmed in a letter to New York magistrate on Monday that plea discussions are on with Khobragade. Fruitful discussions could resolve the case out of court.

Plea bargaining is a standard legal practice in the US by which the government and defendants settle the case outside the court, without going through a lengthy, costly trial.

A defendant usually pleads guilty to a lesser charge, or to one of the many charges. Or, pleads guilty as charged with the prosecution recommending a lighter sentence.

Details of discussions with Khobragade and her lawyer were not available.

Bharara said in the letter to the New York judge that the “discussions are simply not at a stage that merits a continuance of the preliminary hearing”.

In fact, the prosecution said that on January 5 “the government outlined reasonable parameters for a plea that could resolve the case”. But the defendant had not responded.

Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack, who did not respond to multiple emails, texts and calls, sought an extension of the indictment period in a letter to the judge earlier on Monday.

“Significant communications have been had between the prosecution and the defense and amongst other government officials and it is our strong view that the pressure of the impending deadline is counterproductive to continued communications,” Arshack said in the letter, according to PTI.


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