Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
After a two-week trial, the fate of two former John Liu campaign associates rests with a jury. The defendants are accused of conspiring to launder money from big donors seeking to curry favor with the city comptroller and mayoral hopeful John Liu.
Both defendants, Xing "Oliver" Pan and Jia "Jenny" Hou, face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and attempted wire fraud as part of the alleged scheme to bring big money into Liu's mayoral campaign by dividing it among smaller straw donors. Those donors would be reimbursed. But more donors meant the possibility of more public matching funds.
Hou faces two additional charges: obstruction of justice and making false statements.
Defense lawyers portrayed their clients as victims in government’s pursuit of a bigger fish.
“Mr. Pan is collateral damage,” said defense lawyer Irwin Rochman, “collateral damage in the government's obsessive, obsessive, pursuit of making a criminal case against John Liu.”
Hou’s lawyer Gerald Lefcourt called her, “an ingénue, a young woman in her first time as treasurer.” She may have made mistakes, but those mistakes lacked intent.
But prosecutor Brian Jacobs said for the jury to accept the defense attorneys' theories, they need to believe that the defendants were the victims of "a lot of very unlikely coincidences."
He urged the jury to dismiss the alternative theories and find the defendants guilty on all counts.
Pan faces a maximum sentence of 40 years and Hou faces 65 years if convicted on all counts.