By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON -Defense attorneys for two men accused of impersonating federal law enforcement agents and supplying Secret Service personnel with gifts asked a U.S. judge on Monday to release their clients from jail pending trial, saying the government’s case was flimsy and lacked evidence they pose a threat.
Prosecutors “have jumped to the wildest conspiracy theories imaginable,” said Michelle Peterson, an attorney representing Arian Taherzadeh, 40, who is accused along with Haider Ali, 35.
The two men were arrested last week for impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents and four U.S. Secret Service members were suspended from duty, on suspicion the defendants supplied or offered the Secret Service agents rent-free apartments and other gifts.
Those who were offered gifts included an agent assigned to protect President Joe Biden’s wife Jill Biden.
At a detention hearing on Friday, prosecutor Joshua Rothstein asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey to detain both defendants, but Harvey resumed the hearing again on Monday amid lingering questions.
Then at Monday’s hearing, Harvey said he needed still more time before issuing a ruling and expressed skepticism that the government’s request for detention was the only way to address concerns the defendants could go on impersonating police.
“If I were to put both of these gentlemen under house arrest, what’s the realistic likelihood …that they could go and impersonate another police officer during the pendency of this case?” he asked.
Harvey will further question all the parties on Tuesday and aimed to rule on the matter later the same day.
The government has pointed to a cache of weapons and other equipment seized by the FBI as evidence the men pose a threat. The items include firearms, surveillance equipment, tools used to manufacture identities and tactical gear.
Prosecutors have said Ali traveled to the Middle East in recent years and bragged of having ties to Pakistani intelligence, concerns they say justify detaining him as a flight risk.
Ali’s attorney Gregory Smith on Monday said the government’s claims about Ali’s possible ties to Pakistani intelligence were “utterly false and preposterous,” and that his client traveled to the Middle East to visit religious shrines.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Howard Goller)