John Liu’s former campaign treasurer, Jia “Jenny” Hou, is appealing her conviction.
Ms. Hou, who was just 25 years old when she was arrested on fraud charges last year, was sentenced earlier this month to 10 months in prison for her participation in a straw donor scheme on behalf of Mr. Liu’s mayoral campaign. A former Liu campaign contributor, Xing Wu “Oliver” Pan, was sentenced to four months.
But Gerald Lefcourt, Ms. Hou’s lawyer, said today that the conviction “cannot stand.”
“Jenny Hou is not guilty of any crime, not factually and not legally. I believe she is a scapegoat, onto whom all of the limitations of the Campaign Finance Board, the ills of raising money for political campaigns, have unfairly been placed,” Mr. Lefcourt argued in a statement distributed to reporters through Mr. Liu’s campaign press list.
Mr. Lefcourt gave multiple reasons for the appeal, including that Ms. Hou’s allegedly incriminating internet chat messages were improperly obtained from Google; the warrant “should never have been issued,” he argued.
“There was just no evidence that Jenny Hou had any knowledge that anyone was being reimbursed for making donations at the May 9th fundraising event. In fact, the very people who did the reimbursing testified under oath that neither she nor anyone else in the Liu campaign knew,” Mr. Lefcourt said, citing another element of the federal prosecutors’ case.
“Unfortunately, this insufficient of evidence was made up for by a key jury instruction that is just wrong because it relieved the government of having to prove that Jenny knew about the straw donors in order to be guilty of a crime,” he continued.
Similar to Mr. Lefcourt’s “scapegoat” accusation, Mr. Liu, who has remained defiant throughout the ordeal, has also frequently described the case against Ms. Hou as an effort by the ambiguous powers-that-be to crush his political fortunes.
Hampered by the trial and the Campaign Finance Board’s decision to deny Mr. Liu millions of dollars in publicly-matched funds, Mr. Liu finished a distant fourth place in September’s Democratic primary.
Update (1:36 p.m.): Mr. Liu responded to the appeal with a statement containing more praise for Ms. Hou.
“I’m not in the least bit surprised that Jenny would appeal even in light of receiving what many consider a light sentence. She is a person of strong mind and uncompromising character. I believe in her and remain hopeful that she will be vindicated.”
Correction (5:16 p.m.): Mr. Liu placed fourth in the Democratic primary, not fifth as previously indicated.