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Trial of Ron Paul 2012 Aides Begins

Wikicommons / Gage Skidmore
Former Ron Paul staffer Jesse Benton (right) with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at Iowa State University in April 2011

The jury has been selected and opening statements given in Des Moines in the criminal trial of two senior staffers from Ron Paul’s 2012 Presidential Campaign. 

Federal prosecutors say Jesse Benton lied to the FBI, and DemitriosKesari committed conspiracy, both in attempts to keep payments to former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson secret from the Federal Election Commission. 

Days before the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses, Sorenson resigned from former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign and then threw his support to her rival, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Sorenson pleaded guilty last year to charges related to receiving $73,000 in under-the-table payments from the Paul campaign.

Prosecutors say the Paul campaign wanted to keep these payments hidden them from the public, and as a cover-up fraudulent invoices to a film production company were reported in FEC filings. The government plans to have Sorenson testify against Kesari. The former state senator hopes of receiving a lighter sentence for his cooporation, as he faces up to 25 years in prison. 

Benton, who is married to Paul's granddaughter, says he did not knowingly make false statements to the FBI. Kesari says he was not responsible for the campaign’s finances and therefore was not involved in a cover up.

A third campaign staffer, John Tate, was indicted along with Kesari and Benton this summer. But Judge John Jarvey dismissed the charges against Tate last week.

Ron Paul is expected to testify during the trial, which is expected to last through next week.