A three-judge appeals panel reserved decision Tuesday on whether to grant bail to a New York City police officer accused of acting as an agent of China after his defense attorney and a federal prosecutor clashed at a hearing to determine whether a federal district judge in Brooklyn erred in refusing to release the officer.
The dispute, before a three-judge appeals court panel in Manhattan, revolved around whether the officer, Baimadajie Angwang, 33, a native of Tibet and resident of Williston Park, was likely to flee because he was less devoted to his citizenship and roots in the United States than to his native China.
The arguments between Angwang’s defense attorney John Carman, of Garden City, and Eastern District prosecutor Matthew Haggans, in addition, revolved around whether U.S. District Court Judge Eric Komitee made technical errors in refusing to grant bail to the officer while he awaits trial.
Angwang will most likely remain in federal detention until the start of a trial in 2022 or 2023 if he is not granted bail, Carman said.
The arguments also centered around whether the officer concealed past employment with a Chinese businessman when he was questioned by federal pre-trial officers about his suitability for bail.
Angwang, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve and a former Marine, was arrested in September and charged with being an agent of the People’s Republic of China, informing to his handlers in the Chinese consulate in New York, on dissidents or possible targets for recruitment in the Tibetan community in the United States; as well as attempting to get the Chinese officials close to ranking members of the NYPD.
Angwang, who worked in the 111th Precinct in Bayside and who has been suspended without pay, was charged with four felonies: Acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the United States government, wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of an official proceeding.
He was not charged with espionage or spying, although prosecutors said Angwang faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted, and that a number of people charged with similar crimes around the country have not been granted bail.
But Carman disputed this, saying in court and in court papers, that, at most, his client faces probation to four years in prison, and those people denied bail were citizens of a foreign country and some were actual intelligence agents.
Haggans said in court and in court papers that Angwang was " a severe risk of flight," noting that there is no extradition treaty with China, and that he and his wife had strong familial ties in China.
Prosecutors also have said that Angwang was tape-recorded telling his handlers that his goal in getting promoted in the police department was "to assist the PRC and bring ‘glory to China.’ "
Carman said three of the officer's former Marine buddies and six others were willing to post $1 million bond to support his release and stressed he is not a flight risk, saying there couldn’t be "a more powerful expression of support."
Carman added that his client’s motive in dealing with the Chinese was to get a long-term visa to visit his family in China, which was difficult for a Tibetan to receive, and the fact that he didn’t get one was proof that his efforts were not of much value to the Chinese.
Carman also said it was not clear what questions his client was asked about his non-police work, and has had no intention to conceal his employment by the businessman.
"Angwang’s release is the legally and morally correct outcome," Carman said after the hearing.
John Marzulli, spokesman for Eastern District prosecutors, declined to comment.
It wasn't clear Tuesday when the panel would render its decision.