A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a jury’s guilty verdict against Michael Flynn’s lobbying partner Bijan Kian, citing insufficient evidence.
Kian was convicted this summer of illegally acting as a foreign agent and conspiring to hide his work from the Justice Department – fallout from pro-Turkey lobbying he did with Flynn in 2016.
“Bijan and his family are relieved and looking forward to getting on with their lives,” said Kian’s defense attorney Mark MacDougall. “We are all grateful to the court. Our system is still sturdy and, in this case, justice has been done.”
Judge Anthony Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia said Kian could face a new trial if prosecutors are successful in an appeal of his decision, if they choose to make one. Trenga said that if his ruling is thrown out or reversed on appeal, Kian should get a new trial because the jury wasn’t given adequate instructions especially about Flynn’s role.
The Justice Department’s National Security Division did not immediately comment on the ruling. The office played a role in bringing the foreign lobbying case against Kian, and the unrelated case against former White House counsel Greg Craig, which ended in a jury verdict of not guilty. Both Craig and Kian were part of a recent push by the Justice Department to strengthen its enforcement against foreign lobbying crimes.
The ruling may be a boost for Flynn, as he awaits sentencing later this year on his guilty plea. In his plea, he admitted to making a false statement and omissions in his foreign lobbying disclosure, known as a Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, filing, to the Justice Department in 2017. His plea documents said he falsely stated in the filing that his lobbying firm with Kian did not know whether the Turkish government was involved with their firm’s Turkish policy project, and that his op-ed on November 8, 2016, was written on his own and not supervised by Turkish government officials.
Flynn also admitted to lying to investigators about his contact with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition, which was separate from the Kian case and his role within their lobbying group, the Flynn Intel Group.
Flynn’s attorneys in recent months have contested Flynn’s understanding of what he was doing at the time he made the FARA filing, and have accused prosecutors of withholding evidence from him.
Prosecutors had been careful, until just before trial, to say that Flynn was not a conspirator with Kian. He did not testify at Kian’s trial.
An attorney for Flynn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story has been updated.