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April 21, 2022 1:49 pm

New York Times Writer Charged as Iranian Agent Is in ‘Ongoing Plea Negotiations’

avatar by Ira Stoll


Kaveh Afrasiabi. Photo: Screenshot.

A frequent New York Times opinion writer facing federal criminal charges of being an unregistered foreign agent of the government of Iran said in a letter to the court that he is negotiating over a possible plea deal in the case.

Kaveh Afrasiabi, who pleaded not guilty in February 2021, sent an April 17 email to Judge Edward Korman, the judge who has been handling the case. The email says that “should the present ongoing plea negotiations fail and prove unproductive,” Afrasiabi would want to represent himself entirely in the case, dropping his “standby attorney,” Deirdre von Dornum.

“The association of my standby attorney with two high-profile terrorism cases might predispose the public toward certain (mis) interpretations regarding my case,” Afrasiabi wrote.

Von Dornum, a former clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, represented convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev in a death penalty appeal at the Supreme Court. Afrasiabi wrote to Korman that he read in the press “that Attorney Von Dornum is also representing the Brooklyn subway terrorism suspect.”

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“While I fully respect the prerogatives of the public defenders office and the choices made for representation of such defendants, as a political scientist with extensive legal background I am also fully cognizant of the role of public perception and misperception and the relative cognitive associations whichm in this particular case, may well be contrary to my vested legal interests,” Afrasiabi wrote. “It is supremely unfair and unjust and certainly unAmerican to link my name, directly or indirectly, with terrorism suspects, which I am concerned might inadvertently happen in light of Attorney Von Dornum’s association with two high-profile terrorism cases.”

In an April 18 order, Korman said he would address the concerns raised in email at the next status conference in the case, which is currently scheduled for June 14.

Prosecutors say Afrasiabi was paid approximately $265,000 by the Iranian United Nations mission since 2007 and also received health insurance benefits. Afrasiabi has acknowledged to The Algemeiner that he received the money. He has insisted that his writings represented his own views as a public intellectual and were not Iranian government-directed propaganda.

The New York Times has yet to mention the case in its news columns, according to a search of its online archives. Nor has it appended any note to Afrasiabi’s op-ed pieces, still available on the Times’ website, that would disclose to readers that he was being paid by the Iranian government while writing for the paper about Iran.

Some had speculated that Afrasiabi might be let off the hook as part of a renewed, nuclear-disarmament-promises-for-sanctions-relief deal between the Biden administration and the Iranian government. Such a deal, though, has not materialized, despite months of the New York Times breathlessly hyping the notion that the talks are about to reach fruition.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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