Jury selection began yesterday for the trial of Lev Parnas, a one-time associate of Rudy Giuliani, who is accused of making illegal campaign contributions.
S prosecutors said Mr Parnas, a Florida businessman, ingratiated himself with influential Republicans through big campaign contributions, including a $325,000 (€282,000) donation in 2018 to a fundraising super PAC supporting Donald Trump.
An indictment said some of those donations were improperly funnelled through a company that Mr Parnas co-owned, in ways that disguised the origin of the money and evaded limits on personal donations.
Mr Parnas, who is co-defendant in proceedings, initially came to public attention in 2019 as he assisted Mr Giuliani’s effort to get the government of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate. Mr Giuliani is not charged in the case and prosecutors haven’t alleged that he knew anything about illegal campaign contributions.
Mr Parnas and a co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, are also accused of arranging donations on behalf of a Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev, as part of an effort to expand his legal marijuana businesses in the US. Prosecutors said Mr Muraviev put up $1m for the venture.
US District Judge Paul Oetken introduced the case yesterday to 35 prospective jurors carefully spaced apart in a New York courtroom.
He described each of six counts and said the jury was being selected for a trial expected to last two weeks after opening arguments likely to occur today.
The judge said he wanted jurors who could decide the case “fairly and impartially” based solely on the evidence.
Mr Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph Bondy, has argued that he had no intention of making illegal donations on Mr Muraviev’s behalf and that the $1m was a loan that went to another man who has already pleaded guilty in the case, Igor Fruman.
Mr Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, has said his client, an entrepreneur with long-standing ties to legal marijuana businesses in California, was “duped” by Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman and also had no inkling they were doing anything illegal.