UPDATE 1-Suspended U.N. diplomat lacks immunity from U.S. bribe case: judge
(Updates with quote from John Ashe's lawyer)
By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK Feb 4 (Reuters) - A suspended deputy United Nations ambassador from the Dominican Republic cannot claim diplomatic immunity to avoid U.S. charges that he participated in a vast bribery scheme, a U.S. judge ruled on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan ruled that as a naturalized U.S. citizen, neither treaty obligations nor federal law entitled Francis Lorenzo to immunity from prosecution due to his diplomatic role.
"Rather, United States citizens who are diplomats assigned to the permanent missions of foreign governments to the United Nations enjoy immunity only for their official acts," Broderick wrote.
Brian Bieber, Lorenzo's lawyer, said he was "extremely disappointed." He noted Broderick called the issue novel, and said he would seek to challenge instead whether individual acts Lorenzo took were themselves covered by immunity.
"We believe that diplomatic immunity was a natural and appropriate extension to Ambassador Lorenzo," he said.
Lorenzo, 48, was one of six individuals charged in October in connection with an alleged scheme to pay $1.3 million in bribes to John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda and one-time U.N. General Assembly president.
The ruling came as prosecutors weigh whether to bring further charges against Ashe, the General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014 who to date has only been charged with tax fraud due to concerns about whether he enjoys immunity. Continuación...