Court denies Sabri dismissal, evidence supression requests

by Shira Kantor

In an order filed Friday, a judge denied businessman Basim Sabri’s requests to dismiss his bribery indictment and discount condemning evidence Sabri said was unfairly obtained.

Sabri, who was charged in August with bribing former Minneapolis City Council Member Brian Herron with $95,000, had asserted the FBI acted inappropriately when it allowed Herron to keep secret his June 19 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 than Council Member Herron’s hand-picked successor would be able to subsequently file for candidacy for that position.”

Magistrate Judge John M. Mason said the plea agreement was between Herron and the U.S. district attorney, not the FBI.

Herron publicly admitted his guilt and withdrew his bid for re-election to the City Council on July 17, just minutes before the filing deadline. Herron’s assistant, Vickie Ann Brock then filed her intent to run. Sabri and Birrell stated Herron manipulated the public by withholding information about his guilt until it was nearly too late for anyone else to run.

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

Sabri also took exception to the prosecution’s use of search warrant-obtained evidence and statements he made to the FBI before his arrest.

Judge Mason denied Sabri’s request for the court to ignore information obtained from his home and two offices through search warrants Sabri 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 against Sabri’s claim his rights were violated when FBI investigators questioned him without first reading Miranda warnings; 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 encourages comments at [email protected]