Bloomberg News

‘Merchant of Death’ Bout Awaits Ruling on U.S. Jail Conditions

February 12, 2012

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- International arms dealer Viktor Bout, convicted of trying to sell weapons to terrorists, must wait at least another week before learning whether a U.S. judge can order a change in his confinement at a federal jail.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin called a hearing today in Manhattan after Bout’s lawyer complained that his client was being held under unduly harsh conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, where he has been in solitary confinement for 14 months. She told prosecutors and defense lawyers to submit their arguments in the next week.

“Do I have the power to order a move if conditions are inappropriate?” Scheindlin said to the prosecutors. “That’s the ultimate question.”

Bout, 45, a former Soviet air force officer once called the “merchant of death” by a co-defendant, was found guilty of conspiracy by a jury last year for attempting to conduct an arms sale with two men posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. He faces a minimum of 25 years in prison when he’s sentenced March 12.

The case is U.S. v. Bout, 08-cr-0365, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--With assistance from Bob Van Voris in New York. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Stephen Farr

To contact the reporter on this story: Don Jeffrey in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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