Opening arguments were held Tuesday in the fraud case of City Comptroller John Liu's former campaign treasurer and a former fundraiser. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
Jenny Hou and Oliver Pan have waited more than a year for their fraud trial. On Tuesday, it finally started.
"We can prove that she never should have been charged," said Gerald Lefcourt, Jenny Hou's attorney.
Hou, John Liu's former campaign treasurer, and Pan, a former fundraiser, are accused of a straw donor scheme to get over-the-limit campaign donations to the comptroller.
Prosecutors argued on Tuesday that the scheme could have led to Liu's campaign unfairly getting public matching funds. They say Hou and Pan were defrauding the city's campaign finance system.
Prosecutors say the only reason it didn't work is because Pan and Hou were arrested.
"The government has to prove in this case beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Pan's intention, that his purpose, his conscious objective was to obtain matching funds, to defraud the city of New York's campaign finance board of matching funds," said Irwin Rochman, Pan's attorney. "Merely to create straw donors, there's no fraud involved."
The comptroller himself has not been implicated with any wrongdoing. He has continuously said he looks forward to the facts coming out at court.
But the city's campaign finance board is watching the case, and it might affect the comptroller's chances of getting public matching funds for his campaign later this summer.
The board said Liu could be eligible for more than $3.3 million in public money for his mayoral bid.
On Tuesday, during opening arguments, Rochman made sure the jury knew that Pan was never an employee of the Liu campaign.
"The facts will show what I said and will show why, and the argument will show why that's important," Rochman said.
The trial is expected to last about two or three weeks. The comptroller himself is not expected to testify, but there is no question that it could seriously affect his mayoral candidacy.