BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Mordechai Orian, CEO of Global Horizons, who is facing charges relating to the alleged trafficking of farm workers from Thailand to America, is confident that he will be found innocent of the long list of charges against him.
So confident in fact, that on Wednesday Orian’s attorney William Kopeny launched an aggressive challenge to the federal prosecutors’ attempts to delay his trial another 9 months.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Richard L. Puglisi agreed with Kopeny that the trial, which has already been delayed several months, should go on as scheduled on February 7, 2012, and he denied the government’s motion for an extension.
Orian, an Israeli national who lives with his wife and three children in California, said the government has seized 77 of his computer hard drives and he is unable to operate his business, which is unrelated to the now defunct Global Horizons, without them.
Six Global Horizons employees were indicted criminally in September 2010, including Orian, three executives and two Thai labor contractors, in what justice officials said was the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by federal authorities.
On January 14, a 10-count superseding indictment charged two other people in Los Angeles, Joseph Knoller and Bruce Schwartz, as co-conspirators.
Three people have pled guilty in federal court.
The government will have to scramble to meet the December 2 discovery conference deadline and the February 7 trial.
Federal investigators have only reviewed 29 of the 77 hard drives, which they must copy and review. Each drive can take between 1 and 8 hours to complete.
Government investigators also have to screen out any correspondence that could be considered protected under Orian’s attorney-client privilege – and that is quite a task in itself since, as the judge noted, Orian has had 72 attorneys.
So far the government has compiled an estimated half a million pieces of paper, and included more than 6,000 pages in discovery.
One of the most challenging aspects of prosecuting this case is the fact that the U.S. attorney’s office just replaced its entire prosecution team – from FBI agents to federal prosecutors.
While the Hawaii’s U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni, who spoke for the government in court yesterday, did not bring this up, Kopeny did.
Kopeny noted that the original federal prosecutor from Washington DC, Susan French and Kevonne Small of the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division, and two other people on their team, have been removed from the case, and replaced.
This after French bungled a separate high proflle human trafficking trial involving Thai workers brought to Hawaii from Thailand by Aloun Farm owners Mike and Alec Sou.
After a series of missteps, French fell ill during the second week of the September trial, which was expected to continue for another two to three weeks.
A couple of days later, without any explanation, the Justice Department announced they would drop the charges against the Sou brothers.
Orian, who has been featured on Hawaii Reporter TV, wrote about the Justice Department’s case against the Sou brothers and his company in a Hawaii Reporter editorial here.
This Friday, the Sous will try to recoup their legal fees from the federal government, which total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile Orian, and 6 Hawaii farms and two Washington farms that he contracted with, are facing a civil lawsuit filed by The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over alleged mistreatment of the Thai workers.
So far, that civil case isn’t going well for the federal government either.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra dismissed the complaint last week, saying the government agency that is charged with prohibiting employment discrimination has not been specific enough in its allegations. He gave the agency’s Los Angeles-based attorneys 45 days to refile its lawsuit.