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Lev Parnas will not testify in his own defense; jury expected to begin deliberations Thursday

<i>David Dee Delgado/Getty Images</i><br/>Lev Parnas walks past criminal court on October 18
Getty Images
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
Lev Parnas walks past criminal court on October 18

By Lauren del Valle

A federal jury is expected to begin deliberations in the campaign finance case against Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas Thursday.

Prosecutors rested the government’s case against Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin midday Tuesday after calling 14 witnesses over four and a half days of testimony.

After hearing closing arguments Thursday morning, the jury will consider charges against Parnas related to two alleged campaign finance schemes. In one, prosecutors say Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman — who has pleaded guilty — conspired in 2018 to skirt campaign contribution limits and falsely report contributions to the Federal Election Commission by concealing the donations through a company prosecutors say was a front for political dealings.

Other charges connect Andrey Kukushkin, who prosecutors say allegedly conspired and aided Parnas in coordinating straw donations on behalf of his Russian financial backer to gain favor with politicians in states with a legal marijuana industry.

Parnas thanked federal Judge Paul Oetken Wednesday for allowing him extra time to think on the decision of whether to testify. He told the court that after much thought and consultation with counsel and his wife and family, he ultimately would not testify in his own defense.

Kukushkin also declined to testify, and his counsel did not call any witnesses in his defense.

On Tuesday, America First Action Financial Director Joseph Ahearn testified with immunity as the only witness called in the defense case by Parnas’ counsel.

Ahearn placed Parnas in the room at several exclusive events and intimate donor dinners with top GOP figures including President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Rep. Kevin McCarthy at Mar a Lago and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.

Ahearn testified that he first met Parnas in person at a “pre sale” joint financing committee event for potential deep-pocketed GOP donors in February 2018.

He said former New York Assemblyman Stephen Katz put Parnas on his fundraising radar, advertising Parnas as wealthy and politically connected. He invited him to that first exclusive event understanding Parnas to have a history of big donations to Trump in 2016, Ahearn testified.

Ahearn said he confronted Parnas in July of 2018 about media articles questioning the legitimacy of Global Energy Producers and its donation to America First Action but acknowledged he continued to work with Parnas for months despite the FEC complaint flagging a $325,000 donation.

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