The trial of former Ron Paul campaign workers Jesse Benton and Dimitri Kesari in federal court in Iowa on charges related to alleged violations of campaign finance reporting law connected to payoffs for endorsements from former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson has ended with acquittal for Benton on one charge of lying to FBI, and one conviction, one acquittal, plus jury deadlocks on three other charges for Kesari.***
"God is great," Benton told Des Moines Register reporter Grant Rodgers as he left the Southern District of Iowa federal courthouse today. "It feels good." Asked for further reaction by The Washington Post, Benton repeated himself: "God is great."
Benton had been the chairman of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. Like John Tate, who had been Paul's campaign manager, he succeeded in getting the court to drop most of the counts related to the payoff of former senator Kent Sorenson, a Republican who wanted a six-month salary in exchange for leaving another candidate's campaign. But like Tate, the charges forced him to step away from America's Liberty, the struggling super PAC created to help Rand Paul's presidential campaign. For more than two months, senator maintained that Benton and Tate were innocent, and that the indictment may have been timed to hurt his own campaign.
The feds have 10 days to decide to re-try Kesari on the deadlocked counts.
The supposed scandal of this has supposedly haunted Rand Paul for years now, and while I never thought it would be a big deal to the public, at least we'll likely stop hearing pundits say it will be.
UPDATE: After the initial posting, I received this written comment from Benton's lawyer Roscoe Howard: "We are pleased to learn that Jesse Benton has been vindicated today of wrongdoing. The jury members worked diligently through the information presented to them and their decision reinforces that he was wrongly charged – and always has been."
***CORRECTION: The original post mistakenly reported Kesari had no convictions on his charges.