US judge throws out charges against Devyani Khobragade

US judge throws out charges against Devyani Khobragade

An Indian diplomat whose arrest and strip search spurred an international flap had charges against her dismissed by a federal judge on Wednesday.

The judge's ruling said Devyani Khobragade had diplomatic immunity when she was indicted on charges of fraudulently obtaining a work visa for her housekeeper and lying about the maid's pay. 

But the ruling left open the possibility prosecutors could bring a new indictment against her, and they "intend to proceed accordingly," said James Margolin, a spokesman for Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara.

Khobragade's attorney, Daniel Arshack, praised the ruling. "The judge did what the law required, and that is: that a criminal proceeding against an individual with immunity must be dismissed," Arshack said. "She's (Khobragade's) hugely frustrated by what has occurred. She is heartened that the rule of law prevailed."

After being indicted, she complied with a department of state order to leave the US. The Indian government then asked Washington to withdraw a diplomat from the US embassy in New Delhi. The US complied.

A federal prosecutor ventured into the tense relationship between the US and India in December, defending the arrest and strip search of Khobragade when she was held on visa charges and saying she was treated very well, even given coffee and offered food while detained.

US attorney Preet Bharara said Khobragade was afforded courtesies most Americans wouldn't get — such as being allowed to make phone calls for two hours to arrange child care and sort out personal matters — after she was discretely arrested by US department of state agents outside her children's Manhattan school.

Khobragade was arrested on charges she lied on a visa application about how much she paid her housekeeper, an Indian national. Prosecutors said the maid received less than $3 per hour for her work.

Bharara said Khobragade, who had pleaded not guilty, wasn't handcuffed, restrained or arrested in front of her children. And he said that while she was "fully searched" in private by a female deputy marshal, the move was a standard safety practice all defendants undergo.

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