An Iowa grand jury acquitted Jesse Benton Thursday on charges of lying to the FBI during an investigation into a pay-for-play scandal involving a former Iowa Senator and his endorsement.
Benton has been a longtime aide of Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. As the Washington Post notes, the decision essentially means two key aides to the Paul family have now been cleared in a case in which they were accused of paying former Sen. Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Ron Paul in December of 2011.
“God is great,” Benton told Des Moines Register reporter Grant Rodgers while leaving the courthouse Thursday. “It feels good.”
Benton is married to Ron Paul’s granddaughter and was also the lead strategist for America’s Liberty PAC, the struggling super PAC that is supporting Rand Paul’s current bid for the White House.
Last week a federal judge judge dismissed four of five counts against Benton, including the charges that he had concealed payments worth six-months salary to Sorenson. The same judge threw out all four counts against Paul aide John Tate, who is also part of America’s Liberty PAC.
“I am happy that justice has been served,” Rand Paul said in a statement to the Post on Thursday.
Another Paul aide, Demitri Kesari, is still facing three more federal charges after a jury found him guilty of creating false records and not guilty of obstructing justice.
Here’s how the scheme was perpetrated, according to the Washington Post:
According to evidence offered in the trial, Kesari had approached Sorenson, who shared some political strategists, about the possibility of joining Paul’s campaign. In October 2011, a Sorenson ally produced a detailed, three-page list of demands. Benton and Tate both balked, but Kesari kept the conversation going. It was not until December 26, days before the Iowa caucus, that Kesari offered Sorenson a $25,000 check, made from his wife’s jewelry company, and started a process that ended in Sorenson’s surprise Paul endorsement. Prosecutors revealed how Kesari went on to get monthly invoices from a Maryland video production company, billing the Paul campaign for services that only he and a few other people knew was actually just Sorenson’s salary.