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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Former Governor Vazquez asked the U.S. District Court to exclude her from individuals covered

The former governor, through her lawyer, said every media outlet reported this week extensively on the Joint Status Report detailing evidence that will be presented in the case against her.

By The Star Staff

Former Governor Wanda Vazquez has asked the U.S. District Court to exclude her from the list of individuals covered by a gag order that restricts her from speaking about the criminal charges against her.

“Publicity in this case is enormous and lopsided,” she said in a motion this week.

The former governor, through her lawyer, said every media outlet that reported this week extensively on the Joint Status Report detailing evidence that will be presented in the case against her, Venezuelan banker Julio M. Herrera Velutini, and former FBI agent Mark T. Rossini was taken out of context.

The status report said the evidence to be presented in the case consists primarily of a copy of the FBI’s investigative file, updated to July 28, 2022, and contains approximately 16 gigabytes of data and 24 audio recordings.

Vazquez said one media outlet reported that the Government “has 24 recordings in its case against former governor Wanda Vazquez.” A picture of the governor always appears just below the headlines. “A commonsense interpretation of this headline leads the uniformed reader to believe that the Governor was present in all, or some, of the 24 recordings and must be guilty as charged.”

Another news report suggested that the government’s case against Vazquez includes 24 recordings and information that has been classified for reasons of national security.

In the status report, the federal government notified the Court that it will be filing an ex parte motion under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). “This notice is a representation made to the Court solely by the Government. The defendants do not join this notice and reserve the right to challenge the applicability of CIPA in this case,” the joint status report said.

CIPA allows a prosecutor to make reasonable precautions against unauthorized disclosure of classified information it intends to use in a case. A judge sees the information privately and makes determinations.

The governor said the report suggested she put national security at risk.

“As it stands, the Protective Order prevents the Governor from defending herself against such incorrect and misleading headlines. For example, if the Protective Order is lifted as requested, she could address whether or not she is in any of those recordings and level the playing field in the jury pool. She could also comment on the absurd news reporting that she has in any way endangered national security. The Protective Order does not protect Vazquez Garced’s Sixth Amendment rights as the Court intended. It invertedly serves as a sword and shield for the government,” the document states.

As a final matter, she said she wished to address the Court’s comments regarding defense counsels’ appearances in media outlets “months before the indictment was issued.”

She said defense counsels’ appearances were the result of extensive leaks and media coverage of an investigation against the Governor and reports that her cellphone was seized by the FBI. Governor Vazquez said she will seek leave from the Court to supplement this explanation with a more exhaustive narrative of events that led to defense counsels’ appearances in media outlets prior to the indictment.

The government, on the other hand, said it was not going to oppose the repeal of the gag order.

According to the indictment in the case, from December 2019 through June 2020, Vázquez, 62, allegedly engaged in a bribery scheme with Herrera Velutini, Frances Díaz, Rossini, and John Blakeman to finance Vázquez Garced’s 2020 gubernatorial election campaign.

Herrera Velutini, 50, a dual Venezuelan-Italian citizen residing in London, owned an international bank operating in San Juan. Díaz, 50, of Puerto Rico was the CEO and President of the international bank owned by Herrera Velutini. The bank, which was not identified in the indictment is Bancrédito International Bank & Trust. Rossini, 60, of Madrid, Spain, provided consulting services to Herrera Velutini. Blakeman, 53, is a political consultant who worked on Vázquez Garced’s 2020 campaign. Blakeman and Diaz are not in the indictment.

According to the document, beginning in 2019, Herrera Velutini’s bank was the subject of an examination by Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF), a regulatory agency that oversees financial institutions operating in Puerto Rico. Through intermediaries, Herrera Velutini and Rossini allegedly promised to provide funding to support Vázquez’s 2020 gubernatorial election campaign in exchange for Vázquez terminating the Commissioner of OCIF, George Richard Joyner, and appointing a new Commissioner of Herrera Velutini’s choosing, who was Víctor Rodríguez Bonilla, who worked at Bancredito.

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