7th Circuit Affirms Prison Time for Mugabe Lobbyist

     CHICAGO (CN) — The Seventh Circuit found no error in the way a jury found a Chicago man guilty for acting as a lobbyist to Zimbabwe’s sanctioned president, Robert Mugabe.
     Between late 2008 and early 2010, C. Gregory Turner, met multiple times in Africa with Zimbabwean government officials, including President Mugabe and Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who were individually subject to U.S. sanctions.
     The consulting agreement that Turner and an associate signed in November 2008 promised $3.4 million in fees for public-relations work.
     Such lobbying aimed to have sanctions removed by meeting with and attempting to persuade federal and state government officials, including members of Illinois’s members of congressional delegations and state legislators, to oppose the sanctions.
     Though Turner, now 72, called himself a humanitarian who wanted only to help the people of Zimbabwe, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo found that he “acted out of greed.”
     She sentenced the Chicago septuagenarian to 15 months in prison, following a jury verdict finding him guilty of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
     The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence Friday, finding no error in the lower court’s jury instructions or its decision to dismiss an alternate juror who expressed his intent not to appear the following day.
     “The alleged ex parte conversations regarding the replacement of [juror] Chism concerned a proper exercise of discretion by the district court. And the district judge’s ex parte comment had no determinable, much less a fundamentally unfair, effect on the deliberations,” Judge Michael Kanne said, writing for the three-judge panel.
     The court also affirmed the admission of the authenticated consulting agreement as a coconspirator statement, which was sent by his collaborator to a U.S. bank to explain the incoming wire from Zimbabwe.
     President George W. Bush first imposed the sanctions against Mugabe and other Zimbabwe officials for human-rights abuses in 2003.
     President Barack Obama has continued the sanctions annually since March 2009. Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party have governed Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, according to a Justice Department statement.
     Though the sanctions neither bar travel to Zimbabwe nor prohibit public officials from meeting with specially designated nationals to discuss removing the sanctions, “individuals may not provide services on behalf of or for the benefit of specially designated nationals,” according to the Justice Department.

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