Aspen co-defendant’s lifestyle not supported by ankle monitor, attorneys say
He’s a former Aspen resident, a California surfer, and allegedly connected to high-powered foreign actors.
Written pleadings to a federal judge recently gave a glimpse into the life of former Aspen resident Matthew Grimes, who was arrested in July on allegations that he aided billionaire Thomas Barrack in a scheme to lobby the U.S. government covertly on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.
Grimes and Barrack are due in Brooklyn federal court Jan. 5, and they’ll both be wearing GPS monitoring devices as ordered by the court. Grimes would prefer not to, based on a recent pleading from his legal team to Judge Brian M. Cogan. The pleading, written as a letter, asked the judge to modify his bond conditions, including freeing Grimes, 28, from the ankle monitor.
“The electronic monitoring device on Mr. Grimes’s ankle is uncomfortable and unnecessarily burdensome given that Mr. Grimes poses no flight risk whatsoever,” the letter said.
The letter-styled pleading, which was signed by attorneys Abbe David Lowell, of Washington, D.C., and Matthew L. Schwartz of New York, also said the ankle monitor drew unwanted attention to Grimes and hampered his professional ambitions.
“He regularly surfs and attends fitness classes,” said the pleading. “He cannot immerse the device in water and obviously the ankle bracelet is a subject of notice, comment, and embarrassment in his daily activities. The bracelet comes up when he has started to seek new employment and it is not something that makes that effort easier. We do not think the government can sustain its burden to show Mr. Grimes to be a flight risk.”
Federal prosecutors, in a follow-up pleading Nov. 2, argued Grimes is connected to vast wealth and foreign officials in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and he would be capable of fleeing the country if his GPS ankle bracelet were removed.
“Bank records and telephone records reflect that, prior to his arrest, the defendant (Grimes) listed Barrack’s $15 million dollar home in Aspen, Colorado as his primary residence,” said a submission to the judge by U.S. Attorney Breon Peace. “Further, thousands of emails and text message communications obtained during the course of this investigation further confirm that the defendant and Barrack have a close, albeit asymmetrical, relationship. The potential for numerous powerful and wealthy individuals, including foreign leaders and his codefendant, to pressure Grimes to flee significantly increases Grimes’s risk of flight.”
Authorities arrested both Barrack and Grimes in California on July 20 following grand jury indictments. They have both pleaded not guilty to charges they covertly worked as agents on behalf of UAE, from April 2016 to April 2018, to influence President Trump’s foreign policy. The third person indicted was Rashid al-Malik Alshahh, who reportedly fled the U.S.
Barrack, who founded Los Angeles-based real estate and private equity firm Colony Capital, currently is free on $250 million bond, part of which was supported by his 277 Eagle Park Drive home, which he put up as collateral in August, according to a filing in the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office. Barrack bought the home for $15.5 million in November 2017, property records show.
Grimes is out on $5 million bond; he was able to post bond through family means, his attorneys’ pleading to the judge said.
“As of the time of these charges, he has a significant network of friends and family, including his parents, who live in Santa Barbara, where he visits frequently and lives close by in Santa Monica,” the letter said. “Those ties are evidenced by the fact that his parents and brother were willing to serve as sureties for the $5 million appearance bond …”
The letter said Grimes was valedictorian of Bishop Diego High School and at age 21 graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, going straight to work in August 2015 for Barrack as his assistant and full-time analyst at Colony Capital.
“Apart from his time at the University of Pennsylvania and briefly moving to Colorado for work, Mr. Grimes has lived his entire life in California, where he currently resides,” the letter said.
Yet the government warned in its pleading to the judge that if Grimes were to flee the country to the UAE or Saudi Arabia, he could remain there without legal consequences.
“Neither the UAE nor the KSA have extradition treaties with the United States,” the pleading said. “If the defendant were to successfully flee to either of these two countries, he would potentially have the assistance of their highest leaders, virtually ensuring that the defendant would never face justice in the United States.”
Ankle monitor aside, the prosecution and defense agreed to other modifications to Grimes’s bond conditions, including removing his curfew, lifting domestic travel restrictions provided Grimes notifies the court, and increasing his transaction limit from $10,000 to $100,000 without notifying the court (higher transaction amounts would require court notification).
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