A former Drug Enforcement Administration agent accused of illegally bringing his service weapon to the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6th can dismiss a charge of lying to the FBI, a federal judge ruled.
The partial victory for the defendant trims a four-count indictment against ex-DEA agent Mark Sami Ibrahim, who was charged in July 2021 in connection with the breach of the Capitol.
Prosecutors say that Ibrahim repeatedly flashed his DEA badge and firearm while allegedly storming the Capitol — and asked a friend to photograph him to capture him doing so. A grand jury handed down an indictment accusing him of entering restricted grounds with a dangerous weapon, injuries to property, bringing a firearm to Capitol grounds, and false statements.
U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Donald Trump appointee, agreed with the argument by Ibrahim’s defense attorney Marina Medvin that a federal court in Washington, D.C., was the wrong venue to pursue that count, according to the CBS affiliate WUSA.
According to the motion to dismiss, federal authorities interviewed Ibrahim via Zoom when the ex-agent was in California. The man interviewing him, agent Jason Higler, was in Arlington, Va.
Prosecutors believe that Ibrahim lied when he told Higler that he “never exposed” his firearm — at least “[n]ot that I know of” — on restricted grounds. Medvin says that her client never entered the building.
Her motion contains a transcript of a passage of the interview that forms the basis of the perjury count.
Ibrahim’s attorney deployed a range of arguments to win dismissal of the count. One line of attack tried to boot the count for vagueness and failure to state an offense.
“In support of this claim, the government shows a digitally zoomed photograph of Mr. Ibrahim with a holstered firearm that is concealed in Mr. Ibrahim’s waistband and a visible badge next to it,” Medvin wrote. “Mr. Ibrahim is not charged for the act of ‘expos[ing] his firearm and DEA badge while on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building,’ nor does such a charge exist.”
The more technical argument that reportedly resonated with Judge Kelly was improper venue, since Ibrahim was across the country during the time of the interview.
“The Constitution specifically guarantees a defendant the right to be tried where the alleged crime was committed, not where the victim felt the effects,” the dismissal motion noted.
The government’s opposition to the dismissal noted that there was not simply one “digitally zoomed” photograph supporting the charge, but rather two sets of “burst” photographs pulling back his coat to expose his gun and badge.
Prosecutors also rejected the defendant’s venue argument.
“Except as otherwise mandated by statute, venue is proper in any district in which the offense was committed,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney James D. Peterson wrote in an 11-page opposition memo. “Where the offense is of a continuing nature, venue is proper in any district where the acts constituting the offense were begun, continued or completed, unless otherwise provided by statute.”
Ultimately, the defense position prevailed: Judge Kelly confirmed the dismissal count in a docket entry. He denied Ibrahim’s motion to boot the first count, entering or remaining on restricted grounds with a dangerous weapon. The judge also upheld the third count of firearms on Capitol grounds in part — and reserved decision in part.
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