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Gupta makes last-ditch bid to U.S. Supreme Court to avoid prison

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Goldman Sachs Group Inc director Rajat Gupta asked the U.S. Supreme Court to let him stay free while he appeals his insider trading conviction, in a last-ditch bid to avoid beginning his two-year prison term on June 17.

In a request to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gupta, 65, said he should remain free on bail, saying his appeal is "likely" to result in a reversal of his conviction and a new trial, and that he presents no risk of flight or danger to the community.

The U.S. Department of Justice had no immediate comment.

Gupta's request was made public on Tuesday, 11 days after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected his bid to stay free.

The full appeals court has yet to decide whether to rehear Gupta's appeal of his conviction. He intends to ask the Supreme Court to review his case if the appeals court refuses.

Ginsburg handles emergency applications from the 2nd Circuit. She may rule herself on Gupta's request or refer it to the full, nine-member Supreme Court. There is no deadline. Lawyers for Gupta include Seth Waxman, a former U.S. solicitor general.

Gupta, also a former global managing director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co, is the highest-ranking corporate official to be convicted in the government's multiyear probe into insider trading in the hedge fund industry.

A federal jury in Manhattan in June 2012 convicted him of passing tips about Goldman to his friend Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group hedge fund firm.

Prosecutors said Gupta leaked inside information in 2008 about Goldman's results and an unexpected $5 billion investment from Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc .

In appealing his conviction, Gupta argued that wiretap evidence used against him should have been suppressed because the government failed to show probable cause and a necessity to obtain it.

Gupta also argued that his trial judge, Jed Rakoff, should have told jurors that good character could raise a reasonable doubt of guilt and that federal appeals courts are divided about when to give such instructions.

Rajaratnam is appealing his conviction to the Supreme Court. He is serving an 11-year prison term.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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