Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
In the trial of Xing "Oliver" Pan and Jia "Jenny" Hou, prosecutors outlined their case Tuesday, saying that it will include evidence from an undercover FBI agent who posed as a wealthy businessman seeking to buy access to John Liu through a campaign donation.
Lead prosecutor Brian Jacobs told the jury the defendants attempted to corrupt an election by conspiring to hide campaign contributions through straw donors. Jacobs said those donations would have been used to fraudulently obtain matching funds from the city's Campaign Finance Board.
The government says it will offer video, audio, emails and g-chat transcripts as evidence. Among the witnesses will be an FBI agent who posed as a businessman seeking to buy access to Liu with a campaign donation above the legal limit, which would be divvied up among straw donors that would be reimbursed.
Pan's lawyer, Irwin Rochman, all but acknowledged his client had created straw donors, “but not for the involvement and inducement,” of the government agent, “Mr. Pan would never have done what he did.”
Hou’s defense lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, said his client was not guilty and presented a Powerpoint timeline to show how removed she was from the Liu campaign’s activities. Lefcourt said as the Liu campaign treasurer, she served as a “record keeper.”
While the functioning of John Liu's campaign is central to this case, Liu faces no charges.