Reginald Fowler stood before a New York judge Thursday and pleaded not guilty to wire fraud. The new charge brought the total counts against him to five. An irked-looking judge agreed to move the trial date, originally set for next month, to Jan. 11. (Court doc.)
The wire fraud charge was added in a superseding indictment on Feb. 21. The Arizona businessman and ex-NFL owner had already pleaded not guilty to the four prior counts, which had to do with bank fraud and illegal money transmitting. He was looking at a trial date of April 28.
However, with the new charge piled on, Fowler’s lawyer James McGovern wanted more time to prepare. Matthew Lee of Inner City Press, live-tweeted Fowler’s arraignment in court today.
“The trial is scheduled. Mr. Fowler did not plead guilty. Now he wants an adjournment of the trial,” said U.S. Attorney Jessica Fender, according to Lee’s account.
Judge Carter granted the adjournment and offered Oct. 28 as a new date for the trial. But Fender turned it down saying her colleague was unavailable at that time.
“Really? A prosecutor not being available is not grounds under the Speedy Trial Act,” said Judge Carter.
Finally, a new date of early next year was settled upon — and the judge appeared irritated with the government, Lee told me.
The law moves slow
Nothing is happening fast in this case. But the right to a speedy trial isn’t for the benefit of the public — it’s for the benefit of the defendant, who can waive it. And since Fowler is free on $5 million bail while he awaits trial, he can afford to do that. After all, he could find himself behind bars for many years after the trial.
Fowler was originally indicted on April 30, 2019, along with Israeli woman Ravid Yosef, who remains at large. The pair allegedly ran a shadow banking service on behalf of Crypto Capital Corp, a Panamanian payment processor that counted Bitfinex and the failed QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchanges as customers.
A plea deal would have seen three out of four charges against Fowler dropped. The deal was conditioned upon him forfeiting $371 million* allegedly tied up in some 50 bank accounts, but he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—agree to that.
After Fowler turned down the plea deal, federal prosecutors heaped on the newest charge of wire fraud. The fifth count was no surprise. In a court transcript filed in October 2019, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sebastian Swett told Judge Carter:
“We have told defense counsel that, notwithstanding the plea negotiations, we are still investigating this matter, and, should we not reach a resolution, we will likely supersede with additional charges.”
Fowler, who resides in Chandler, Ariz., will likely go about his daily life until next year when his trial begins. Is he rattled by any of this? Who knows. This is a man who has plenty of experience dealing with lawyers and judges. In 2005, ESPN reported that he had been sued 36 times.
Updated (3/7/20) to add names of attorneys.
*Updated (3/5/20 at 11:30 p.m ET) to note that Fowler’s proposed plea deal was based on him forfeiting $371 million, not $371,000 as previously stated.