How's this for a defense lawyer's fantasy: You walk into the federal building to negotiate a plea deal for your client. When the prosecutor insists on prison time, you smile slightly. You adopt the most helpful tone possible. Then you inform him, most assuredly, that in that case, your client will be on the first plane to New Delhi. And there’s nothing — no, nothing — the government will be able to do to stop him.
Such is the leverage scenario that will likely play out as Cristina Arguedas embarks on a deal for Stefan Wathne, international socialite-cum-alleged LSD money launderer.
On Monday, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Wathne shouldn't have been extradited from India to face his indictment in San Francisco. Arguedas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Waqar Hasib appeared before Walker today, and both indicated they would start negotiating. If they don’t agree, they will litigate the issue of what to do with Wathne.
Walker, though, already indicated that he might just send Wathne back to India. From there, the defendant could return to his home in Russia, with the indictment still hanging over him. Hasib told Walker that’s the remedy the government prefers.
Of course, a return to India — followed by a life avoiding most countries in the developed world — wouldn’t be grand for Wathne. If he’s got some favorite uncle dying in his native Iceland, that would help Hasib’s negotiating position. That aside, Wathne will probably pay a fine, maybe a big one, and probation. And then … museum gala circuit, watch out!
— Dan Levine