WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed charges against a Russian company accused of funding the Kremlin's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, after federal prosecutors said the company has flaunted court rules and made the prosecution more trouble than it is worth.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich came hours after the Justice Department asked to drop the charges against Concord Management and Consulting.
"There is a substantial federal interest in defending American democratic institutions, exposing those who endeavor to criminally interfere with them, and holding them accountable, which is why this prosecution was properly commenced in the first place," the government said in a 9-page motion filed Monday. "In light of the defendant's conduct, however, its ephemeral presence and immunity to just punishment, the risk of exposure of law enforcement's tools and techniques and the post-indictment change in the proof available at trial, the balance of equities has shifted."
Part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, a grand jury in February 2018 indicted Concord Management and Consulting, as well as 13 Russian nationals and two other companies in connection with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections using social media troll farms and influence campaigns.
Concord Management was the only alleged conspirator to enter an appearance in court and vigorously contested the charges over the ensuing two years.
But prosecutors say Concord Management has never really participated in the prosecution, instead using court proceedings to collect information about how the U.S. government responds to and monitors efforts from foreign countries to interfere in its elections.
"It is now apparent to the government that Concord is 'present' only to the extent it benefits Concord — that is, to seek dismissal of the charge against it, to gather discovery, and generally to impugn the government — but Concord is, in effect, absent to the extent the rules and orders of the court require it to take actions that are against its own interests," the motion states.
As evidence of the company's wrongdoing, the Justice Department specifically points to a declaration Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch nicknamed "Putin's chef,” filed in response to an order from Judge Friedrich as she evaluated the government's request to hold the company in contempt for not complying with subpoenas.
The motion says there is reason to believe Prigozhin's declaration contains false statements "calculated to conceal facts that are relevant to this case and that a typical defendant would be required to reveal or else face sanctions."
The Justice Department also says its case was weakened substantially by a classification determination on evidence it gathered during the investigation. The case was scheduled to go to trial next month.
The motion makes clear the government will continue going after individual Russians named in the indictment in the hopes of bringing them before a U.S. court.
Reed Smith attorney Eric Dubelier, an attorney for Concord Management, declined to comment on the filing earlier Monday.
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