Baltimore attorney Christos Vasiliades was on his way to the rape trial of his defendant at the downtown courthouse Tuesday when the criminal focus pivoted away from his client and toward him.
Vasiliades, 38, was arrested and charged with trying to intimidate the alleged rape victim in the case by telling her that testifying would make her vulnerable to deportation by the Trump administration, according to a grand jury indictment against him.
Vasiliades offered the woman and her husband $3,000 in cash if their absence in court got the case “thrown out,” court documents show, then encouraged the couple to track down the defendant and “kick his ass.”
“If we were back home where I’m from, from Greece … we would go f‑‑‑ him up, that’s it,” Vasiliades allegedly said during a meeting with the couple that was secretly recorded.
Vasiliades added: “I think you should find him and kick his ass, personally.”
The attorney and a man identified as his acting interpreter, Edgar Ivan Rodriguez, told the alleged victim that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would likely be in the courtroom for the trial, and that under new Trump administration policies the couple would be deported if they showed up in court.
“You know how things are with Trump’s laws now,” Rodriguez said during the meeting, according to court documents. “Someone goes to court, and boom, they get taken away.”
He added: “They’re going to ask, ‘you have your documents?’ ”
The money, the men allegedly claimed, would ensure the couple remained in the United States.
Both Vasiliades and Rodriguez were arraigned Wednesday in Circuit Court in Baltimore on charges of witness intimidation and obstruction of justice, reported the Baltimore Sun. Both men pleaded not guilty and prosecutors agreed to release them under pretrial supervision.
“Part of it, we allege, is a good old fashioned bribe, but the threat that the witness would be deported is sadly new,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told the Associated Press, “and I think it arises out of the climate of fear in the immigrant community over the change in policy for deportations.”
Since President Trump took office in January, immigration advocates and law enforcement officers have been outspoken about the negative impact that fear of deportation can have on victims of crimes. Afraid that voluntary contact with law enforcement might expose their illegal status in the country, alleged victims may opt out of reporting crime to authorities.
“If crime victims feel that they’re in jeopardy of being deported if they report a crime, we’re going to get more crime,” Frosh told the Associated Press. “And I just really give a lot of props to the victim of this crime. She was victimized twice, but had the courage to report it to law enforcement, and it makes us safer when she can do that.”
According to the indictment, Vasiliades and Rodriguez called the alleged victim’s husband April 11 and claimed the woman’s rape case had become “more complicated.” The men wanted to meet and discuss it.
At a restaurant in Baltimore City, Md., Vasiliades and Rodriguez told the couple about their deportation risks. They said the man accused of the rape, Mario Aguilar-Delosantos, was sorry and then they offered them compensation for skipping court.
The couple felt threatened after that first encounter, reported the Associated Press, and sought help from law enforcement, who arranged for them to record a phone call to Vasiliades, claiming they had considered the offer and wanted to discuss it further, according to the indictment.
The four once again met up in Baltimore, this time in an office space, on May 18. Vasiliades forced everyone to leave their phones on a desk in the lobby, authorities said, but the couple was equipped with a recording device.
The recording allegedly captured the men citing recent immigration statistics and explaining the climate for immigrants. They said that ICE was “looking at this case.”
They offered the couple $3,000 and laid out a game plan: Vasiliades would go into court the day of the trial but the alleged rape victim and her husband would stay outside with Rodriguez, according to the indictment.
If the case was “thrown out” because they didn’t arrive to testify, then Vasiliades would come outside and flash a “thumbs up” to Rodriguez, who would then hand the couple their money.
Toward the end of the meeting, the men offered to show the couple the cash the night before the trial.
“Please don’t say anything on the phones,” Vasiliades allegedly said on the recording. “Don’t say anything on the phones. For me and for you.”
Vasiliades’s attorney said in a statement to the Associated Press that “unless and until the State proves each and every allegation to a near certitude, Mr. Vasiliades is innocent.”
Joseph Murtha, an attorney for Rodriquez, told the Associated Press: “It’s too early to reach any conclusions about Mr. Rodriquez’s involvement until all the information that was collected in the investigation is reviewed.”
Aguilar-Delosantos faces charges of second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses and second-degree assault for an incident March 25, 2016, reported the Sun. He has been free on $250,000 bond.
Since his attorney’s arrest, his trial date was pushed back to August, reported the Sun.
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