ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a new trial for a onetime business partner of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the Turkish government.
The ruling Friday from U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga is the latest twist in the long-running legal saga for businessman Bijan Kian, who was a partner with Flynn in the Flynn Intel Group.
Kian was charged in 2018; the case spun off from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference.
Prosecutors said Kian conspired with a Turkish businessman to use Flynn's influence on behalf of the Turkish government. Specifically, they said Kian and Flynn were acting at Turkey’s behest when they undertook a project to discredit Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Turkish cleric living in the U.S.
Flynn wrote a November 2016 op-ed piece comparing Gulen to former Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
A jury convicted Kian in 2019, but Trenga tossed out the jury's verdict and ordered an acquittal. He also ruled that if for some reason his order of acquittal were overturned on appeal, that Kian should get a new trial.
Trenga said the evidence at trial did not support a conviction. The government had planned that Flynn would be a star witness at trial, but reversed course on the eve of trial and opted against putting Flynn on the stand.
Last year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the conviction. The case was sent back to Trenga, with only a narrow path for Trenga to order a new trial if he could outline in detail why the evidence failed to support a conviction.
On Friday, Trenga issued a 51-page ruling ordering a new trial. Among other factors, he cited evidence that the actual conspiracy involved Flynn and the Turkish businessman, Kamil Alptekin, with Kian excluded from the arrangement.
Karoline Foote, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia, declined comment Monday on whether the government will indeed seek to put Kian on trial again.
The spelling of Bijan Kian’s first name has been corrected.