Judge denies request to throw out bribery charges in federal inquiry

Shira Kantor

In an order filed today a judge denied businessman Basim Sabri’s requests to dismiss his indictment and to discount search warrant-obtained evidence and statements Sabri made to the FBI before his August arrest.

Sabri, who was charged with bribing former Minneapolis City Council Member Brian Herron with $95,000, had asserted the FBI acted inappropriately when they allowed Herron to keep secret his June 19th confession to extorting $10,000 from another business owner, Selwin Ortega, for nearly one month.

In their motion, Sabri and his attorney, Andrew Birrell, acceded secrecy is necessary in such delicate criminal investigations, but maintained since Herron was a public official, he should not have been allowed to continue to serve. The motion states: “It appears that the FBI and Council Member Herron carefully orchestrated the timing of his [resignation] announcement to ensure that no one other that Council Member Herron’s hand-picked successor would be able to subsequently file for candidacy for that position.”

Magistrate Judge John M. Mason ruled the claim had “no basis in fact,” stating he found no evidence the bureau acted improperly.

Judge Mason also denied Sabri’s request that the court ignore information obtained from his home and two offices through search warrants he stated were “overbroad.” The warrants allowed the FBI to seize all of Sabri’s bank account and financial records, as well as records of business development and financial plans.

Finally, the judge ruled Sabri’s claims that his rights were violated when FBI investigators questioned him without first reading Miranda warnings were unfounded — the investigators did not arrest Sabri or take him into custody.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Sabri and his attorney requested FBI information relating to Herron and Ortega, as well as pretrial interviews with the two men, according to another affidavit the court filed the same day. The requests were denied.

Herron’s attorney, Joe Friedberg, has not had contact with either Sabri or Birrell, according to Friedberg’s assistant.

Neither Sabri nor his attorney could be reached for comment. Sabri’s trial is slated to begin later this month.

Shira Kantor welcomes comments at [email protected]