New York Times writer accused of being Iranian agent participates in ‘ongoing plea talks’
A frequent New York Times opinion columnist facing federal criminal charges of being an unregistered foreign agent for the Iranian government said in a letter to the court that he was negotiating a possible plea deal in the case.
Kaveh Afrasiabi, who pleaded not guilty in February 2021, sent an email on April 17 to Judge Edward Korman, the judge handling the case. The email says that “if ongoing plea negotiations fail and prove unproductive,” Afrasiabi would like to fully represent himself in the case, dropping his “standby counsel,” Deirdre von Dornum.
“The association of my standby counsel with two high-profile terrorism cases may predispose the public to certain (mis)interpretations regarding my case,” Afrasiabi wrote.
Von Dornum, a former clerk for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, represented convicted Boston marathon suicide bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev in a death sentence appeal to the Supreme Court. Afrasiabi wrote to Korman that he had read in the press “that attorney Von Dornum is also representing the Brooklyn subway terrorism suspect.”
“While I fully respect the prerogatives of the Public Defender’s Office and the choices made for the representation of these defendants, as a political scientist with an extensive legal background, I am also fully aware of the role of public perception and misperception. and relative cognitive associations which, in this particular instance, may well be contrary to my vested legal interests,” Afrasiabi wrote. “It is grossly unfair and unfair and certainly un-American to link my name, directly or indirectly, to suspects of terrorism, which I fear may inadvertently occur 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 an email at the next status conference in the case, which is currently scheduled for June 14.
Prosecutors say Afrasiabi has been paid about $265,000 by Iran’s UN mission since 2007 and also received health insurance benefits. Afrasiabi admitted to The Algemeiner that he received the money. He insisted that his writings represented his views as a public intellectual and were not propaganda directed by the Iranian government.
The New York Times has yet to mention the case in its news columns, according to a search of its online archives. Nor did he add a note to Afrasiabi’s opinion pieces, still available on the Times website, which would reveal to readers that he was paid by the Iranian government while writing for the newspaper on Iran.
Some had speculated that Afrasiabi could be released as part of a renewed agreement of nuclear disarmament pledges for sanctions between the Biden administration and the Iranian government. Such a deal, however, did not materialize, despite months of The New York Times gasping for air that the talks were close to a conclusion.