By LARRY NEUMEISTER
NEW YORK (AP) – A smiling Lev Parnas, a former Rudy Giuliani affiliate accused along with a co -defendant of making contributions to the illegal campaign, has left a Manhattan court after telling a new sworn jury to return Wednesday morning for the opening statement.
Twelve jurors and three alternates were selected Tuesday to sit in the trial, leaving attorney Joseph Bondy expressing optimism that the right people had been chosen to hear the case against his client Parnas.
“We think everything is really fine. We’re looking forward to tomorrow,” Bondy said as he and Parnas walked together.
He called it an “interesting case where we have a proper defense and people will finally hear us.”
U.S. prosecutors say Parnas, a Florida businessman, began his Republican influence through large campaign contributions, including a $ 325,000 donation in 2018 to a super PAC supporting the former President who Donald Trump.
A lawsuit alleges that some of those donations were improperly funneled by a company co-owned by Parnas in ways that obscured the source of the money and circumvented limits on personal donations.
Parnas was first noticed by the public in 2019 as he helped Giuliani’s effort to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of former presidential candidate Joe Biden. Giuliani has not been charged in the case and prosecutors have not accused him of knowing anything about the illegal campaign contributions.
Parnas and a co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, were 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 United States. Prosecutors say Muraviev put up $ 1 million dollars for the adventure.
U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken introduced the case Tuesday to prospective jurors who separated from each other in a New York court because of coronavirus concerns.
He described each of the six numbers and said the trial is expected to last two weeks.
The judge said he wanted jurors to be able to decide the case “fairly and impartially” based solely on the evidence.
Parnas and Kukushkin, along with their attorneys, were introduced to the pool of jury prospects. Everyone stood up and pulled a mask down to see their faces.
Bondy argued that Parnas had no intention of making illegal donations on Muraviev’s behalf and that the $ 1 million was a personal loan that went to another man who had already pleaded guilty to the case, Igor Fruman.
Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, said his client, a San Francisco -based businessman with long -standing ties to legal marijuana businesses in California, was “cheated” by Parnas and Fruman and also had no inkling. they do anything against the law.
Outside the court after the jury was selected, Bondy said he was careful in choosing the jury to try to find jurors by focusing on what they heard, what they read, the people they were with and their family structures. .
“We’re really looking as a New Yorker, born and raised, for people like us, a community of your peers,” he said, though he noted that the large room where the jury selection took place had drawbacks that it became difficult to sometimes see those covered by the prospective jury.
“It’s like I’m stuck behind a pillar, isn’t it?” he said. “I have no idea who I’m looking at.”
However, he called it a “great selection process.”
And Bondy added: “We just want the truth to prevail.”