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Prosecutors to retry 7 members of Idaho family charged in counterfeit cellphone conspiracy

"I just suggest that you buckle up," Judge Winmill told defense attorneys unhappy with the prospect of restarting the colossal trial as early as next month.
Credit: Joe Parris/KTVB
Federal agents raided a number of addresses in the Boise area during a Wednesday morning operation. Photo: Joe Parris/KTVB

BOISE, Idaho — A Treasure Valley family accused of running a multi-million counterfeit electronics operation is set for trial again, after an earlier trial ended in a hung jury and no convictions. 

Only seven defendants -  Pavel Babichenko, Piotr Babichenko, Timofey Babichenko, Kristina Babichenko, David Bibikov, Anna Iyerusalimets, and Mikhail Iyerusalimets - will head to court for the second go-round. 

Natalya Babichenko was the only person fully acquitted by the jury. Prosecutors earlier dropped charges against another relative, Gennady Babichenko, who was accused of financing the scheme without direct involvement. 

The jury in the earlier trial, which spanned ten weeks, returned incomplete verdicts for the other seven people in the case, acquitting some of them on a handful of charges and informing the judge they could not reach a consensus on others. 

The remaining defendants will be retried for only those charges on which the jury did not reach a verdict, 19 counts in all.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill acknowledged the difficulty in coordinating what will essentially be a reboot of the massive trial, but added that he wanted to set the new court date for sooner rather than later.

"I think we need to get moving on this," he said, telling the lawyers conflicts with holidays and a period of time when he will be out of the country necessitates beginning the new trial in either October or January.

Winmill told prosecutors he believed they could try the case in about half the time of the first attempt, considering that two of the defendants are out and money laundering charges against some of the remaining suspects have been dropped. 

"I am going to expect the government to be very focused on its presentation, and I'll do everything I can to make that possible," the judge said. 

Multiple defense attorneys for the seven family members expressed dismay at the idea of restarting the colossal proceeding so soon.

John DeFranco, who represents Pavel Babichenko, said he has obligations to defendants in other cases who agreed to waive their own rights to a speedy trial because their attorneys were "hung up" in the lengthy Babichenko case.

"We have basically reduced our practice to close to nothing," DeFranco said. "We do have clients who were in the wings waiting for their cases to be resolved or tried."

Almost every defense lawyer chimed in with similar concerns.

"I have put many clients off for months," David Bibikov's lawyer Robyn Fyffe said. "I'd be breaking many promises if I had to get right back into trial."

Paul Riggins, the attorney for Piotr Babichenko, said that the other attorney representing his client was expecting a baby and would be absent for the trial if it took place in January. Attempting to juggle Piotr Babichenko's case alone would put Riggins and the defendant at a disadvantage, he argued. 

"If I don't have any co-counsel, I'm not in a position to handle the case by myself," Riggins said. 

But Winmill said he would not continue pushing the case, now three years old, out into the summer of 2022. He asked all the lawyers to send him their scheduling conflicts, but warned that it will be impossible to set a trial date that will please all the attorneys. 

"I have to do what I have to do," the judge said. "I just suggest that you buckle up. Someone is going to be very unhappy, no doubt about it."

Winmill said he will announce the trial date by Thursday. 

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