(Reuters) - A defence attorney was arrested in a Baltimore courthouse after he told an alleged rape victim she risked being deported by the Trump administration if she testified against his client, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
The lawyer, Christos Vasiliades, 38, also offered the woman and her husband a $3,000 bribe to stay away from court in order to get his client’s 2016 felony rape charges dismissed, according to a grand jury indictment.
Vasiliades and another man charged in the case, Edgar Rodriguez, last week told the woman’s husband that the current environment for immigrants in the United States meant he and his wife risked being arrested by immigration agents if they testified, the indictment said.
“You know how things are with Trump’s laws now; someone goes to court, and boom, they get taken away,” Rodriguez, who acted as an interpreter, told the husband.
The husband had met with law enforcement ahead of the meeting with Rodriguez and Vasiliades and was wearing a recording device that captured their comments, the indictment said.
Vasiliades was jailed after his arrest on Tuesday and faces 12 charges, including witness intimidation and obstruction of justice. No one could be reached for comment at his law office, and it was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
The accusations come amid heightened concern for immigrants as the Department of Justice steps up immigration enforcement. Arrests of suspected illegal immigrants were up by almost 40 percent in the first 100 days of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration.[nL2N1IJ17M]
Immigrant rights groups say federal immigration agents have entered courthouses with increased frequency this year.[nL2N1GT278]
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Andrea Ricci