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Jury selected for trial of ex-Giuliani associate Parnas

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A jury was selected on Tuesday to decide the fate of a onetime associate of Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in a case that could shed light on how campaign finance operates behind the scenes, including during the Republican former president’s failed 2020 re-election bid.

Opening arguments are slated for Wednesday in the case against Lev Parnas, and his co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, in Manhattan federal court.

The Ukraine-born Parnas has been charged with concealing an illegal $325,000 donation to support Trump’s re-election effort.

Parnas and Kukushkin were also charged with illegally using donations to U.S. politicians from a wealthy Russian businessman, Andrey Muraviev, to obtain legal, recreational marijuana distribution licenses. They have both pleaded not guilty.

The case has drawn attention because of Parnas’ ties to Giuliani, a forceful supporter of Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden because of widespread voter fraud.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetkin asked dozens of potential jurors whether they had strong feelings about Trump and Giuliani that prevented them from being impartial, and what media outlets they turned to for news.

Ten men and five women were selected as jurors. Three of those will serve as alternates.

The judge dismissed dozens of potential jurors, including one who said he had “been involved with politics my whole life,” and another who worked at the Justice Department from 2006 to 2008.

One man who said his brother worked as a real estate attorney at the Trump Organization will serve on the jury.

Giuliani enlisted Parnas and another associate, Igor Fruman, to dig up dirt in Ukraine about Biden and his son Hunter before the election. Last month, Fruman pleaded guilty to soliciting money from a foreign national.

The case is separate from a federal probe into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, including whether the former New York mayor violated lobbying laws while working as Trump’s lawyer.

Giuliani has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing. His lawyer has said Parnas’ case and the lobbying probe are unrelated.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Writing by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Rosalba O’Brien and Peter Cooney)