Lev Parnas, a fugitive accused of using money from other people to pretend to be a political broker and to cozy up to the country's top Republicans, was in court for more than two months.
Parnas and a friend were accused of making illegal donations to a corporate entity in 2018. They tried to start a new energy company. One part of the case involved a $325,000 donation made to America First Action (a super PAC that supported former President Donald Trump).
Another part claimed that he used the wealth and connections of Andrey Muraviev (a Russian financier) to give money to Republicans in Nevada, Florida, and other states. This was allegedly to support a plan to legalize recreational marijuana.
After five hours of jury deliberations, Parnas, 49 was found guilty on all six charges.
Through his lawyer, the Soviet-born businessman insisted that he had never used Russian money to make political donations. As the verdict was read, he briefly closed his eyes. He then shook his head.
"I have never hidden from anyone," Parnas said. Parnas stated, as he walked out of the courtroom. Joseph Bondy, his lawyer, promised Parnas an appeal. Parnas stated that it was not the end of the story.
"I am sad. He said, "But at this moment, I just want my wife and children to come home."
Andrey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born investor, was also convicted for being part of Muraviev’s scheme to use Muraviev’s money for political donations. He also denied any wrongdoing. Kukushkin and his lawyer left the courthouse after he denied any wrongdoing.
This case was interesting because Parnas' involvement in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials involved in investigating Joe Biden's son, Igor Fruman (a former co-defendant), had attracted attention.
Giuliani is still under criminal investigation while authorities determine whether his interactions in Ukraine with officials required him register as a foreign agents. However, he was not alleged to be involved in illegal campaign contributions.
However, the case provided a close look at Parnas's entry into Republican circles in 2018, with a pattern for campaign donations large enough to get him meetings of party stars.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated in a statement that the defendants illegally funnelled foreign money into the 2018 midterm election to gain influence over American politicians and candidates. He also said that they had a plan to make huge profits in the marijuana business. Campaign finance laws were created to safeguard the integrity of free and fair elections, unencumbered or influenced by foreign interests. It is vital to preserve the freedoms Americans cherish.
Parnas, Fruman, and the $325,000 donation to America First Action were just a few of the allegations made by prosecutors. They also claimed that Parnas and Fruman coordinated donations to U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) and other House Republican committees.
Trump and Giuliani were not mentioned at all during the trial. However, a photograph of Parnas with Florida Governor was. Ron DeSantis (a Republican) was one of the first exhibits presented to jurors at closing arguments.
DeSantis was one of those who received campaign donations that were linked to $1 million Parnas, Fruman and Muraviev received from Muraviev. Muraviev has been involved with several U.S. marijuana ventures.
Around $100,000 of Muraviev’s money was used to pay campaign contributions in what Assistant U.S. attorney Hagan Scotten described as a conspiracy to bring his "wealth" and corruption into American politics, in violation of U.S. laws that prohibit foreign donations to U.S. candidates.
Scotten stated, "The voters wouldn't know who was funding our elections."
Adam Laxalt, former Nevada Attorney General, is now running for U.S. Senate. He testified that Parnas, a boastful Parnas, suggested that he could raise hundreds and thousands of dollars in 2018. Laxalt's lawyers advised him to decline a $10,000 check, but he eventually got through with it.
Parnas' lawyer Bondy called the allegations against Parnas "absurd."
In his closing argument, he argued that Muraviev was innocent because his money went to support legal marijuana businesses seeking expansion. Muraviev wasn't charged in the case.
Gerald Lefcourt, Kukushkin’s lawyer, tried to portray him as an inept dupe who was mocked behind the back by others as mentally challenged.
After the verdict, the prosecution asked for Parnas' and Kukushkin's immediate imprisonment, citing the risk of flight. However, the judge granted them bail to wait for their sentencing.
Although the charges against Parnas could land them behind bars for many decades, any sentence in prison would likely be measured in years rather than decades.
Fruman pleaded guilty to one count of soliciting a contribution from a foreign national earlier in the year. He is awaiting sentencing.
David Correia was also guilty of the crime and has been sentenced for a year in prison. He defrauded investors in an insurance company which had paid Giuliani $500,000 in consulting fees.
Parnas is awaiting a second trial in relation to that scheme.
Giuliani was not even mentioned in the trial. However, jurors were able to view a video of him and Parnas during deliberations.
Former New York Mayor, Donald Trump, insisted that he had no knowledge about illegal campaign contributions. He also claimed that everything he did in Ukraine was on Trump's orders and that he didn't need to register as an agent for foreign countries.
Emails seeking comment on the verdict were not immediately answered by Giuliani's attorney and company.