Federal Witness Sentenced to Federal Prison for Soliciting a Bribe From a Defendant
Federal Witness Sent Messages Through Social Media Seeking a $5,000 Payment to Testify Falsely or Refuse to Testify at Federal Trial
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel today sentenced Jolen Michael Ghorbani, a/k/a “Jay,” age 28, formerly of Fairfax, Virginia, to 18 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for bribery of a witness related to a federal criminal trial in which Ghorbani was a witness.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge Wayne Jacobs of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Washington Field Office Criminal Division; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, on February 3, 2021, Ghorbani was the victim of a kidnapping, assault, and robbery committed by Tray David Sherman and Sherman’s co-conspirators. During the kidnapping, Ghorbani was transported from Maryland to Washington, D.C. where Sherman and his co-conspirators assaulted and robbed Ghorbani. Sherman was indicted and arrested on March 31, 2021, for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. On April 15, 2022, Ghorbani was served with a subpoena requiring his testimony at Sherman’s trial, which was initially scheduled to begin on July 11, 2022.
As detailed in the statement of facts, beginning on June 5, 2022, Ghorbani used a social media account to send a series of threatening and intimidating direct messages to Sherman, including a message where Ghorbani sent his telephone number to Sherman and said “[C]all me If you want to finesse trial.” Approximately three weeks before the scheduled start of Sherman’s trial, Ghorbani sent another series of messages to Sherman through his social media account, this time soliciting a payment of $5,000 from Sherman in exchange for Ghorbani’s agreement to testify falsely or to refuse to testify at all at Sherman’s trial. Ghorbani shared the messages he sent to Sherman with another individual, bragging that he (Ghorbani) was “[d]ancing with the devil,” and referring to Sherman, stating, “I’m auctioning off his freedom.”
On January 20, 2023, Tray Sherman, age 28, of Washington, D.C., the final member of the five-defendant kidnapping conspiracy, was sentenced to 126 months’ imprisonment. Sherman and his coconspirators pleaded guilty to luring Ghorbani from a casino in Maryland to a building in Southeast Washington, D.C., where they threatened Ghorbani’s life, took his personal items, and held him hostage at gunpoint while Sherman and another co-conspirator returned to the casino to steal items from the victim’s hotel room. The other four defendants all pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and were sentenced to between 10 and 14 years in federal prison.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI Washington Field Office and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked the FBI Miami Field Office for its assistance. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey J. Izant who prosecuted the case and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Leah B. Grossi for her assistance.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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