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Bharara polarising case, says Devyani’s lawyer

Senior Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade has berated US Attorney Preet Bharara for publicly disclosing plea discussions underway to resolve the visa fraud case against her, saying it was a "distressingly calculated" move which could further polarise the situation.

world Updated: Jan 09, 2014 09:19 IST
Devyani Khobragade

Diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s lawyer on Tuesday slammed the prosecution for making public the plea deal talks between the parties to settle the case outside the court.

“We are surprised and distressed that the prosecution has elected to publically (sic) characterize the discussions that have taken place in the manner in which they have,” Daniel Arshack said in a motion filed in a Manhattan court.

He charged the prosecution with trying to “polarize” the case.

Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara had told the court in a letter on Monday that plea deals were being discussed with Khobragade to resolve the case.

“We have participated in hours of discussion in the hope of negotiating a plea that could be entered in court before January 13,” Bharara had said.

Bharara’s office must file an indictment by January 13, 30 days from the day of arrest as is the rule -- Khobragade was arrested on December 12.

The diplomat’s lawyer had requested the court earlier on Monday to push the indictment deadline by another 30 days for the parties to discuss the matter “because we wish to eliminate the pressure on the situation and permit the efforts which are ongoing to resolve this matter, both between the parties to this criminal litigation and elsewhere to move forward”.

Bharara’s office has argued that, one, only the prosecution can seek an extension of the indictment deadline and, two, those talks could continue even after the indictment.

Plea bargaining is a standard legal practice in the US encouraged by the government to settle case outside the court, avoiding lengthy, costly trials.

Defendants either plead guilty to a lesser charge, or just one of the many charges, or plead guilty as charged in return for lighter punishment.

Bharara’s Monday letter to the court confirmed for the first time that plea deal talks were on.

He had, in fact, gone on to assert that his office had outlined “reasonable parameters” for the defendant in discussions on January 5, but hadn’t heard back from them.

Arshack said the prosecution’s decision to violate an agreement to not make those talks public was a “distressingly calculated one”, and that it should desist from further polarizing the situation.