An American reporter accused of defaming a British-Israeli security consultant is looking to bolster his defense with deposition testimony from an ex-FBI agent implicated in a corruption case involving a former governor of Puerto Rico.
Scott Stedman, who has published multiple stories regarding former President Donald Trump’s alleged connections to Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, has asked a New York federal court to allow him to seek discovery from Mark Rossini, a former FBI agent who worked for security consultancy firm USG Security Limited (USG).
Rossini is currently facing federal criminal charges stemming from an alleged scheme between former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez Garced and an international bank run by Herrera Velutini. According to the Justice Department, Velutini’s bank was given regulatory leeway in exchange for funding Garced’s 2020 campaign. Rossini is accused of being one of the “intermediaries” in the scheme, allegedly lobbying Garced on Velutini’s behalf. Earlier this month, Rossini turned himself in to federal authorities, insisting he is innocent of the charges.
Rossini’s work for USG ties him to Stedman’s defamation case. The firm is run by Walter Soriano, a British-Israeli security expert who is suing Stedman for defamation over stories Stedman published regarding what Stedman described as Soriano’s links to “core figures associated with alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
Articles published on Stedman’s website Forensic News “detailed Soriano’s extensive relationships with Russian oligarchs and their agents, including, most prominently, Oleg Deripaska,” Stedman’s filing says. “Deripaska is an aluminum magnate with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin and Paul Manafort and was the subject of intense scrutiny for his involvement in Russian election interference activities.”
Stedman recapped his reporting on Soriano in his ex parte application for a discovery order, filed Tuesday:
Walter Soriano is a British-Israeli “security consultant” with ties to the Russian oligarchy. Forensic News learned of Soriano when a Politico report identified him as a person of interest in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Forensic News picked up on the Politico report and ran with it. Forensic News and its journalists ultimately discovered and reported on a web of shadowy connections and secretive dealings that were largely forged through USG. Their investigations culminated in the publication of multiple news articles about Soriano and his ties to core figures associated with alleged Russian election interference, including Dmitry Rybolovlev and other Russian oligarchs.
That reporting, Stedman says, sparked Soriano’s lawsuit against Stedman and Forensic News. Soriano sued Stedman in England, where USG is based; Stedman has filed his request to depose Rossini in the Southern District of New York, where Stedman says Rossini resides.
Stedman says that Rossini would have knowledge about the information that he says formed the basis of his stories linking Soriano to Russia.
“Rossini likely possesses additional unique evidence that will aid Petitioners’ defense in the English Defamation Action,” the filing says. “Rossini’s tenure at USG spanned years and covered some of the most critical events described in Petitioners’ articles — events Soriano denies ever occurred. Rossini — as a USG contractor — also likely possesses contracts or paystubs that could help Petitioners discover additional evidence corroborating the truth of their reports on USG’s business relationships. This corroboration is critical to Petitioners’ defense in the English Defamation Action. It will help confirm the truth and accuracy of Forensic News’s reporting and defeat Soriano’s blanket denials of the facts Petitioners uncovered.”
Stedman says that information about the inner workings at USG is crucial to his defense in the defamation case.
“USG is at the center of virtually all of Soriano’s connections to Deripaska, Abramovich, Rybolovlev, Netanyahu, Molho, and others,” Stedman’s filing says. “Having worked for USG during the relevant time period, Rossini likely possesses information that would prove the accuracy of Petitioners’ reporting on these connections. Any such information would support the veracity of Petitioners’ reporting on Soriano’s vast web of connections. Rossini also likely possesses written agreements or other financial documents that would lead to highly probative evidence regarding payments USG made to individuals affiliated with Russian oligarchs, the Israeli elite, or cyber-surveillance and hacking firms. The discovery would therefore aid Petitioners in defeating the strike suit Soriano filed against them in England — a suit that would not even come close to prevailing in an American court.”
Stedman also alleges that Rossini “likely possesses knowledge and documents regarding USG’s financials (including an employment agreement or paystubs) that could lead to highly probative evidence regarding USG payments to entities described in Petitioners’ articles.”
Stedman told Law&Crime that testimony from Rossini could be the key to his defense in the defamation case.
“For years, Mark Rossini was employed by USG Security, the private intelligence company run by Walter Soriano,” Stedman said. “He was not a low-level employee. In fact, his business card listed him as USG’s ‘EU/US Senior Operations Officer.’ Because of his years-long work for USG and Soriano, Rossini likely has relevant knowledge that will prove the accuracy of my reporting on Soriano’s business activities.”
Stedman said that Rossini “very likely” has information about Soriano’s work for multiple Russian oligarchs, including the “silencing of Deripaska’s mistress Nastya Rybka in 2018.”
“I will continue to use every legal tool available to prove the accuracy of my reporting in the face of this abusive, retaliatory legal attack from a man who made millions enabling the Russian oligarchy,” Stedman added.
A lawyer representing Rossini in the corruption case did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
In 2009, Rossini pleaded guilty to criminally accessing an FBI database for personal purposes and sentenced to probation. He was sentenced to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service, and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
Law&Crime left a message with Soriano’s company seeking comment.
Read the memo here:
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