Attorney Who Pleaded Guilty in Special Counsel Probe Asks for Leniency

WASHINGTON (CN) – The attorney who pleaded guilty in February to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with former Trump campaign associate Rick Gates, asked prosecutors late Tuesday to let him skate with no jail time.

Attorney Alex Van Der Zwann was fired by prominent New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP last year, and pleaded guilty as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The two-page indictment against him says he might have deleted his most recent email communications with Gates, whom Mueller indicted Oct. 30 alongside Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort for money laundering, conspiracy, and failure to register as a foreign agent for lobbying work on behalf of the Ukrainian government.

Gates has since pleaded guilty to a single count of lying to FBI agents and is cooperating with Mueller.

Van Der Zwaan said in a 30-page March 27 filing that he worked closely with Gates after being retained in 2012 to prepare a statement of the offense for the criminal trial of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Mueller’s team took interest in his work, and interviewed Van Der Zwaan on Nov. 3, 2017.

But Van Der Zwaan said he was motivated to lie to conceal conversations he recorded with Gates and someone identified only as Person A. Gates had contacted Van Der Zwaan, according to the filing, in 2016 instructing him to contact Person A, who told him the new Ukrainian government might file charges against Van Der Zwaan and other Skadden lawyers with whom he worked on the Tymoshenko report.

His concern over that prompted him to begin the recordings, the filing states.

Van Der Zwaan says he never told anyone, including a Skadden senior partner he recorded, about the recordings.

Worried about the lies he told, Van Der Zwaan says he returned to the United States Nov. 16 to correct the record with Mueller’s team. Since then, he says he has been stuck in limbo because he agreed to surrender his passport to the FBI.

Van Der Zwaan says he turned over “numerous electronic devices to Skadden,” which were handed over to Mueller’s team.

Van Der Zwaan expressed remorse but asked for leniency in sentencing.

“The conduct that brings Alex before this Court was inexcusable,” the filing says. “And while his actions following his initial meeting with the OSC cannot absolve him from culpability, they are compelling mitigating factors in considering punishment,” the brief says, abbreviating Office of Special Counsel.

Van Der Zwaan faces a sentence of zero to six months, but asked for a non-jail sentence since his willingness to admit his false statements and correct the record “has come at great cost.”

“Although Alex committed a serious offense, just punishment does not require incarceration,” the filing states.

Van Der Zwaan, 33, says “his days are empty and lonely.”

“The impact of being stranded here has been enormous: Alex’s entire life is overseas; he has no home, no family and no way to earn a living in this country,” the brief says, noting that his guilty plea likely assures the end of his legal career.

He also says he’s worried he’ll miss the birth of his first child, which is due in August.

“Alex has learned his lesson, and there is no risk that he will reoffend,” the brief says.

Van Der Zwaan’s attorney, William Schwartz with Cooley LLP in New York, did not immediately return a voice mail seeking comment on the ruling left after hours. The Office of Special Counsel did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment after hours.



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