Judge tosses conviction against Michael Flynn's ex-lobbying partner, Bijan Rafiekian

A jury convicted Bijan Rafiekian in July, but a judge said "the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law ... "
Image: Arraignment Hearing Of Former Michael Flynn Associate Bijan Kian
Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, right, arrives at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Dec. 18. 2018.Zach Gibson / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Julia Ainsley

WASHINGTON — A federal court in Virginia acquitted a former business associated of Michael Flynn on Tuesday, throwing out his July conviction by a jury on two counts of violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act during his work on behalf of Turkey.

Judge Anthony Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed the indictment against Bijan Rafiekian, citing insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction on either count.

"The evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the jury to convict Rafiekian on either count," Judge Trenga wrote in his opinion, adding that a new trial would be warranted "in the interest of justice should the Court's judgment of acquittal be later vacated or reversed."

Rafiekian, sometimes referred to as Kian, came to the attention of investigators in the probe into Russian interference in the U.S. election as they collected evidence on Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's former national security adviser. Flynn is awaiting sentencing on charges stemming from lying to investigators about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about sanctions.

Kian and Flynn worked together prior to Flynn joining the administration as part of the now-dissolved Flynn Intel Group, NBC News reported.

Their work, which included efforts to see an elderly Muslim cleric extradited from the United States to face charges in Turkey, was not properly disclosed to the Justice Department.

Prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said it was reviewing the court's opinion vacating the jury's verdict and did not have further comment.

Rich Schapiro contributed.