Jurors will also hear evidence on charges related to an alleged effort by Parnas, Fruman and his partner Andrey Kukushkin to funnel $ 1 million from a Russian national into federal and state elections for the benefit of their future cannabis business. .
The trial begins nearly two years to the day when 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 Donald Trump, and launched two unknown Florida businessmen onto the world stage with precarious antecedents.
The criminal trial shouldn’t drag the jury into the life of Parnas 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 the former president and his lawyer will not. be absent from the case, either. Prosecutors said at a recent court hearing that they intended to show the jury photos Parnas texted Kukushkin from Parnas with Giuliani and Trump that he was using to extol his connections and his affecting.
It won’t just be prosecutors who accuse Parnas of fraud. Kukushkin’s attorneys said they would argue Parnas fooled Kukushkin and his Russian backer who he says were unaware of the scheme, setting the stage for potentially tense times. District Judge Paul Oetken has rejected a previous request for a separate trial and said he would rule on contentious moments in the trial as they arise.
Parnas and Kukushkin have denied any wrongdoing.
In recent days, lawyers have spent time with Oetken discussing what the parties can and cannot address during the trial, debating how best to tone down the potentially irrelevant and distracting fanfare about Trump and Giuliani. .
Who will testify
Prosecutors should kick off testimony from Joe Ahearn, a senior official at America First Action, a pro-Trump Super PAC who received $ 325,000 in donations in question under the alleged straw donation program .
Ahearn will likely speak to Parnas ‘efforts to make donations in time to secure event invitations and gain access to Trump, Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy said in court.
Lawyers involved in the case say other witnesses include Felix Vulis, a Russian businessman and former managing director of Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. in connection with the cannabis trade; the former chief of staff of former Rep. Pete Sessions; current and former FEC lawyers; two Nevada politicians, Adam Laxalt, then Nevada attorney general and running for governor, and Wesley Duncan, a less prominent state politician; a lawyer who helped Parnas register a cannabis business in the state; and a partner in a law firm that assisted Parnas’ files with the Federal Election Commission.
Two names who will appear on emails and text messages but physically absent from the trial include Fruman, who pleaded guilty last month to one count related to the scheme to solicit a contribution from a foreign national. Fruman initially faced multiple charges in multiple federal indictments, but entered into a plea deal that did not require him to cooperate with prosecutors. He faces up to five years in prison and is expected to be sentenced in January.
The other name is David Correia, another indicted associate along with the other men. He is currently serving a one-year sentence after pleading guilty to charges last October for defrauding investors in Fraud Guarantee, a company he ran with Parnas from 2012 to 2019. He is not cooperating and is expected to be released. in January.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil action against Parnas and Correia under the alleged fraud guarantee program, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in February. Correia has settled the case with the SEC, but Parnas’ attorney continues to argue the case on his behalf.
Despite being known for bragging about his wealth and ties to Trump’s big-game circle, Parnas told court this month that he is out of money to pay his lawyer. Oetken has granted relief to Parnas, ruling that the government will arrange or pay for his trip from his home in Florida and his lawyer will be reimbursed for accommodation costs at the government’s per diem rate.
The trial is expected to last around two weeks.