U.S. judge for FIFA trials is familiar with organized crime cases

Sat Jun 6, 2015 8:08am EDT
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By David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. judge presiding over the corruption cases of indicted soccer officials may not have been able to pronounce the name of soccer's world governing body, FIFA, during a secret hearing in 2013, but he does know how to oversee a proceeding that involves organized crime.

    U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn, New York, has spent some of his nearly three decades on the bench handling mobster trials. A defendant was found murdered in one of the cases, and in another the head of a crime family walked the streets in a bathrobe as he faked a mental illness to try to avoid standing trial. 

    Now, Dearie, who turned 71 on Thursday, is responsible for presiding over the cases of nine current and former FIFA officials and five corporate sports executives who are accused of participating in a decades-long criminal enterprise that involved more than $150 million in bribes. With U.S. prosecutors' investigation far from over the number of defendants could increase.

    The start of any trials may be far off, because only one of the 14 defendants is known to be in the United States. The rest are either missing or awaiting possible extradition proceedings.

    But if the defendants do end up in Dearie's court, he will set the pace of the case and likely be asked to rule on key points such as the admissibility of evidence.

    Like many Americans, Dearie was, at least up until about 18 months ago, not familiar with all the intricacies of world soccer. In November 2013, when Chuck Blazer, who had been a top U.S. soccer official for many years, appeared before Dearie to plead guilty in a secret agreement with prosecutors, the judge struggled with the pronunciation of soccer's world governing body.

    "I don't know how you pronounce it, FIFA," Dearie acknowledged, according to a transcript unsealed this week.  (It is pronounced fee-fa)

He is, though, expected to easily overcome any such lack of familiarity.   Continued...