Defense lawyers in the conspiracy trial of two former aides to City Comptroller John Liu were dealt a blow Monday as jury selection got underway.
The judge in federal court in Lower Manhattan ruled the testimony of Liu's former press secretary, Sharon Lee, will be allowed.
Lee is expected to testify she offered to reimburse family and friends for making donations to Liu's campaign, but that no campaign officials told her to do it.
Defense lawyers did not want Lee's testimony admitted, arguing it was not relevant.
A former Liu fundraiser, Oliver Pan, and Liu's former campaign treasurer, Jenny Hou, face conspiracy and other charges.
Prosecutors say they used straw donors to funnel large, illegal contributions to Liu's mayoral campaign.
Hou is also charged with obstructing justice and making false statements.
Both defendants claim they were caught in the middle of an overzealous investigation into Liu's campaign finances.
Lee's attorney, Andrew Lankler, refused to comment on Monday.
Meanwhile, just two blocks from federal court, Liu was attending a press conference on school suspensions.
Asked for reaction on Lee's upcoming testimony, the comptroller said, "It is my understanding that she never asked for immunity."
Now that the trial is officially starting, it has put Liu on the defensive as he tries to ratchet up his race for mayor.
"I am very proud of the way we have conducted fundraising. I am running for office. I have to raise funds like most people. I wish I had as much money as Mike Bloomberg did. I wish I didn't have to raise funds," Liu said.
The comptroller has not been implicated with any wrongdoing.
He saw some support from a handful of demonstrators outside of federal court.
"She is a target, like John Liu. This is politics," said one demonstrator.
"It all is to destroy John Liu. It's not fair," said another.
The trial is expected to last about two or three weeks. By Monday, it was not known when Lee would testify.