Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance charges
A jury of eight men and four women found Parnas guilty of plotting with co-conspirators to use money from a Russian donor to fund political contributions they hoped to exchange for political favors for their joint venture of budding cannabis.
A donation of $ 325,000 to the America First Action Super PAC involved in the case was first reported in a 2018 FEC complaint.
Parnas faces up to five years in prison for each of the five counts, and a sixth count for falsifying FEC records carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Co-accused Andrey Kukushkin was also convicted of two counts relating to his role in facilitating campaign donations paid for with money from his Russian boss.
The charges against Kukushkin each carry a maximum prison sentence of five years.
Parnas spoke in court on Friday afternoon, saying: “Obviously I’m upset, but for now, I just want to go home with my wife and kids and take care of it. I want to thank (my) lawyers, Joe and Stephanie. They had an incredible fight, I mean, incredible. We need to reassess what happened there and determine what the next steps are. ”
Parnas’ conviction will likely be postponed given his pending second trial on one count relating to the fraud guarantee allegations, the judge said. Kukushkin is expected to be sentenced in mid-February.
Parnas stared straight in front of the jury as the foreman read the verdict. Kukushkin shook his head as they read guilty on every count brought against him.
Stopped at the airport
The verdict comes two years after Parnas and Fruman were arrested at an airport in the Washington area as they boarded a flight to Vienna. The arrest came amid the House Democrats’ investigation – and possible impeachment trial – of then-President Trump and launched two unknown Florida businessmen with precarious backgrounds onto the world stage .
Parnas ultimately did not testify, but he appeared to be seriously considering this decision in his own defense. Prosecutors were hoping to question Parnas about his matching proposals to Ukrainian politicians at the behest of Trump Giuliani – a situation he openly discussed with Anderson Cooper on CNN.
Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, told jurors in oral argument that his client was nothing more than an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur working for a wealthy Russian businessman and that they were duped by Parnas and Fruman who scammed them for a million dollars.
“Parnas and Fruman presented themselves as associates to the president, the president’s lawyer and all those important people,” Lefcourt said. “It looked good on the surface, even though it was all silliness.”
Kukushkin refused to testify. His lawyer did not call any defense witnesses and often refused to cross-examine several prosecution witnesses. Oetken refused a previous request for a separate trial of Parnas before the trial.
Connection to GOP policy
During the trial, jurors did not hear of Parnas’ life traveling across Europe with Giuliani to compile what he claimed to be damaging information about then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son. Hunter – but Trump and his personal lawyer were not absent from the case.
Prosecutors showed jurors several photos of Parnas and Fruman smiling next to Trump, Giuliani and other prominent Republican figures like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
America First Action chief financial officer Joseph Ahearn testified with immunity as the only witness called in the defense by Parnas’ attorney on Tuesday.
Ahearn has placed Parnas in the room at several exclusive events and intimate donor dinners with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and California GOP Representative Kevin McCarthy at Mar a Lago and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
Ahearn said he first met Parnas in person at a “pre-sale” joint fundraising committee event for potential deep-pocketed GOP donors in February 2018.
Ahearn said former New York Assembly member Stephen Katz put Parnas on his fundraising radar, announcing that Parnas was wealthy and politically connected. He invited him to that first exclusive event including that Parnas had a history of big donations to Trump in 2016, Ahearn testified.
During the trial, jurors also saw texts from Ahearn urging Parnas to honor his large donation pledges to America First Action and the Protect the House committee to ensure VIP access to GOP candidates and events.
Parnas’ defense argued that he did not want to wait to open the GEP bank account for the “start-up” to send the $ 325,000 to the Super PAC because Ahearn pushed him for the money so that Parnas does not lose “chic VIP events,” defense lawyer Joseph Bondy explained during his argument.
“You don’t get to these events without paying the bagpiper,” Bondy said.
Ahearn said he confronted Parnas in July 2018 over press reports questioning the legitimacy of Global Energy Producers and his donation to America First Action, but admitted that he continued to work with Parnas for months despite the complaint from the FEC noting the donation of $ 325,000.
Parnas’ former aide Deanna Janse Van Rensburg also testified under immunity that she helped Parnas and Fruman process over $ 500,000 in campaign contributions and tickets to political events for politicians and committees of the GOP often coordinating with Ahearn and other campaign staff.
This story is out and will be updated.