IRNA – A jury verdict allowing the US government to seize a midtown Manhattan office tower that it said was effectively controlled by Iran was thrown out on Friday by a federal appeals court, which cited several errors by the trial judge.
Jurors had found in June 2017 that the nonprofit Alavi Foundation, which had a 60% stake in the partnership that owned the building, violated US sanctions imposed against Iran in 1995 because it knew that the 40% owner, Assa Corp, was a front for an Iranian state-owned lender, Bank Melli.
But in Friday’s decision, Circuit Judge Richard Wesley faulted trial judge Katherine Forrest, who is now in private practice, for “a troubling pattern of errors on relatively straightforward issues.”
Separately, the same appeals court panel set aside Forrest’s 155-page opinion, which followed a non-jury trial, in favor of victims of alleged terrorist attacks linked to Iran, who sought damages from Alavi and the partnership, 650 Fifth Avenue Co.
The 3-0 decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is a defeat for the Department of Justice, which went to trial hoping to sell the 36-story building at 650 Fifth Avenue, perhaps for close to $1 billion, and distribute proceeds among victims of bombings and other attacks allegedly linked to Iran.