Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Bidens must remain jailed, appeals court rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a bid to release from jail a former FBI informant who is charged with fabricating a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden’s family.

Alexander Smirnov ‘s lawyers had urged the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court judge’s order that the man remain behind bars while he awaits trial.

But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said the lower court was right to conclude Smirnov is a flight risk and there are no conditions of release that would reasonably assure he shows up in court.

The appeals court also denied Smirnov’s request for temporary release, which his lawyers had pressed for so he could undergo eye surgery for glaucoma.

Smirnov was arrested in February on charges accusing him of falsely telling his FBI handler that executives from the Ukrainian energy company Burisma had paid President Biden and Hunter Biden $5 million each around 2015. The claim became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry of President Biden in Congress.

Smirnov has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II in Los Angeles in February ordered Smirnov to remain jailed while he awaits trial, reversing a different judge’s ruling releasing him on GPS monitoring. Smirnov was re-arrested at his lawyers’ office in Las Vegas two days after the magistrate judge released him from custody.

Smirnov’s lawyers vowed Wednesday to further fight for the man’s release. They can ask the full 9th Circuit to review the ruling or go directly to the Supreme Court.

Smirnov’s lawyers have noted that their client has no criminal history and argued that keeping him locked up will make it difficult for him to help his legal team prepare for trial. His lawyers said they believe “he should be free in order to effectively prepare his defense.”

“Our client was out of custody and at our office working on his defense when he was rearrested and detained. He was not fleeing,” David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld said in an emailed statement.

In urging the judge to keep him in jail, prosecutors revealed Smirnov has reported to the FBI having extensive contact with officials associated with Russian intelligence, and claimed that such officials were involved in passing a story to him about Hunter Biden.

Smirnov had been an informant for more than a decade when he made the explosive allegations about the Bidens in June 2020, after “expressing bias” about Joe Biden as a presidential candidate, prosecutors said. Smirnov had only routine business dealings with Burisma starting in 2017, according to court documents.

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