Jesse Benton, a longtime advisor to both former congressman Ron Paul and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), was acquitted Thursday in a federal trial of which Ron Paul said was intended to undermine his son Rand Paul’s current presidential campaign.
Benton, who was the chairman of Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, had been under indictment since Aug. 5 after prosecutors accused him of supposedly concealing over $70,000 in payments to Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to convince Sorenson to switch his presidential endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul.
The court had previously dismissed four of the five counts against Benton on Oct. 9, stating that the prosecution had blatantly violated agreements between Benton and the government, but Benton remained under indictment for a single count of lying to the FBI until his acquittal on Thursday.
“God is great,” Benton told multiple reporters as he left the Southern District of Iowa federal courthouse. “It feels good.”
Another former Ron Paul staffer, Dimitri Kesari, was also under indictment but was found guilty on one count of ‘causing a false record’ and faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The government’s prosecution of the former Ron Paul campaign staffers coincided with Rand Paul’s early rise in the presidential polls this summer, which indicated the prosecution was politically motivated.
Even more telling, a government official linked to Lois Lerner’s IRS targeting of conservative groups, Richard Pilger, was the driving force behind the prosecution.
And the Justice Dept. could have prosecuted Benton and his fellow staffers as early as Sept. 2014 when the government reached a plea agreement with Sorenson, who was similarly charged, but waited to file the indictments until days before Rand Paul was scheduled to appear in a Republican debate.
The charges against the former campaign staffers ultimately had a negative impact on Paul’s polling numbers.
“We are pleased to learn that Jesse Benton has been vindicated today of wrongdoing,” Benton’s attorney Roscoe Howard said in a statement. “The jury members worked diligently through the information presented to them and their decision reinforces that he was wrongly charged – and always has been.”
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