NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge threw out the convictions of a former Fox executive and a South American sports media and marketing company in the FIFA bribery investigation, citing a May decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving an aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen, who presided over the trial in Brooklyn federal court, granted a motion for an acquittal in a 55-page decision filed Friday night.
Hernan Lopez, the former CEO of Fox International Channels, was convicted on March 9 along with the marketing company Full Play Group SA of one count each of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy related to the Copa Libertadores club tournament.
Full Play was convicted of two additional counts each of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy related to World Cup qualifiers and friendlies and to the Copa América, the continent's national team championship.
The Supreme Court in May reversed the wire fraud conspiracy conviction of former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, ruling jury instructions were too vague.
“The Supreme Court’s latest wire fraud decisions — especially Percoco — and the absence of precedent applying honest services wire fraud to foreign commercial bribery, requires this court to find that (the statute) does not criminalize the conduct alleged in this case and that therefore the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain defendants’ convictions under that statute,” Chen wrote.
She added: “Defendants’ convictions for money laundering, predicated on their honest services wire fraud convictions, also cannot be sustained. The court therefore grants defendants’ motions to acquit on all counts of conviction.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York is reviewing the decision, spokesman John Marzulli said Saturday.
“Our client is grateful for the court’s well-reasoned decision," Carlos F. Ortiz, a lawyer for Full Play, said in an email. "It has been a long journey and we greatly appreciate the court’s complete vindication.”
David Sarratt, a lawyer for Lopez, said in an email: “We are obviously pleased with Judge Chen’s thorough and correct decision. We have never stopped believing in our client’s innocence.”
Dozens of people have pleaded guilty or been convicted after a U.S.-led investigation into FIFA and international soccer. The probe became public in 2015 when U.S. prosecutors accused the leaders of soccer federations of tarnishing the sport for nearly a quarter-century by taking $150 million in bribes and payoffs.
Fox Corp., which split from a subsidiary of international channels during a restructuring in 2019, was not charged and has denied any involvement in the bribery scandal.
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