COURTS & LEGAL

Ex-FBI informant Smirnov will remain in jail while he awaits trial, judge rules

Feb 26, 2024, 12:12 PM

Alexander Smirnov leaves court in Las Vegas on February 20, 2024. (CNN)...

Alexander Smirnov leaves court in Las Vegas on February 20, 2024. (CNN)

(CNN)

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN)Ex-FBI informant Alexander Smirnov will remain in jail while he awaits trial, a federal judge in California ruled Monday.

Smirnov was indicted over allegedly lying about President Joe Biden’s family and their alleged dealings in Ukraine. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Smirnov, a 43-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen, is accused of telling his handler that a Ukrainian energy company paid $5 million in bribes each to Biden and his son Hunter – an allegation that prosecutors say was a complete fabrication.

District Judge Otis Wright on Monday said that “there is nothing garden variety” about the criminal case involving Smirnov, who Wright says has a “habit or practice of making false statements.”

“I have not changed my mind,” Wright said. “The defendant will be remanded pending trial.”

“The records are fairly clear,” prosecutor Leo Wise said. Smirnov “made it all up.”

A magistrate judge in Las Vegas, where Smirnov lives, had ordered that Smirnov could leave jail and be subject to GPS monitoring. Smirnov was re-arrested days later, however, while meeting with his attorneys.

Wright wrote in a court order unsealed Friday that he had authorized Smirnov’s second arrest because he had learned that Smirnov’s attorneys may be trying to “facilitate his absconding from the United States.” In his order, Wright did not provide evidence or explain his thinking.

Prosecutors with special counsel David Weiss, who is overseeing the case, have argued that Smirnov’s supposed significant number of foreign contacts, and his access to millions of dollars, makes him a flight risk.

Smirnov’s attorneys have appealed his detention to a higher court, saying that Wright overstepped his authority by signing a new arrest warrant and ordering Smirnov be brought to Los Angeles without a hearing. The defense attorneys also lambasted the notion that they would help Smirnov flee, writing in a court filing Friday that “the suggestion that defense counsel is participating in an unlawful plot by advocating for release … is wrong.”

Wise revealed that Smirnov was arrested at his lawyers’ office because he has nine firearms in his house, including an “assault weapon,” and that law enforcement believed it would be safer to execute the arrest while he was not home.

Defense attorney David Chesnoff pushed back against prosecutors during the hearing Monday, saying that Smirnov’s foreign contacts were “at the direction of the government.” But when Wright questioned whether “all” of his contacts were at the government’s behest, Chesnoff appeared to walk back the statement.


This story has been updated with additional details.

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Ex-FBI informant Smirnov will remain in jail while he awaits trial, judge rules