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Mixed Verdict in Ron Paul Staffers' Trial

Sarah Boden/IPR

A federal jury delivered a mixed verdict Thursday in the trial of two senior aides from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Campaign chairman Jesse Benton was acquitted of lying to the FBI in relation to his knowledge of secret payments made to former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson for his support of Ron Paul. Deputy campaign manager Dimitrios Kesari was found guilty on one of five counts, causing financial records to be falsely reported to the Federal Election Commission. 

"We thought the trial was flawed throughout," says Benton's attorney Roscoe Howard. "Sorenson clearly has his issues. There were just issues with how the July 21 interview was actually conducted....We're very pleased."

During the cross examination of FBI Special Agent Karen LoStracco and closing arguments, Benton's defense raised issue over the fact there was no transcript of the July 21, 2014 encounter. Defense also highlighted errors in the FBI’s notes and complained that Benton was not allowed to reviewed his statements to LoStracco.

In addition to sole guilty verdict on causing false reports, Kesari was acquitted of a conspiracy charge and the jury was hung on three other charges, including obstruction of justice. A hung jury results in a mistrial.

For Kesari to be found guilty on several of the counts the jury had to determine that the deputy campaign manager knew he was acting illegally in relation to disguising Sorenson payments as invoices to a Maryland-based film production company. Several questions from the jury to the judge during deliberations centered one's "willfulness" of in breaking the law, or one's knowledge that their actions were in someway illegal.

"We are evaluating our options," said Kesari's attorney Jesse Binnall, as he and his client left the courthouse. 

Government prosecutors have ten days to decide if they want to pursue a retrial on Kesari's other three charges. The government may also bring additional charges against Benton.