Nikola Corp. founder Trevor Milton remains free on $100 million bond as his sentencing on three fraud convictions scheduled for Friday was delayed until spring or possibly summer.
Milton asked for a new trial in December, claiming juror misconduct before and after his trial in the U.S. District Court in New York. Federal prosecutors filed a 28-page motion Friday, opposing arguments by Milton’s legal team.
“The defendant seeks to cast blame for his conviction on, among other things, the headings in the written jury instruction and on the jurors themselves, who, consistent with the responsibility thrust upon them, rendered a just — if lenient — verdict,” according to the filing signed by Damian WIlliams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Milton was convicted Oct. 14 after a 12-day trial on three of four charges, two of wire fraud and one of securities fraud. The government contended that Milton repeatedly lied about the electric truck and hydrogen-making startup’s technology accomplishments. His purported goal was to inflate the price of the stock, defrauding investors who lost millions when the price collapsed.
‘Misleading statements to the market’ by Milton
“Both the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of the company testified that the defendant was obsessed with maintaining and increasing the stock price and made repeated false and misleading statements to the market,” the government filing said.
At one time, Milton owned about 25% of Nikola shares. He sold tens of millions of dollars worth over the last two years. But he remains Nikola’s largest individual shareholder with about 11% of the stock.
In a 42-page motion in December, Milton claimed that one juror lied during jury selection about using social media and posted biased comments after the trial about pay inequality that accused rich executives of collecting enormous salaries and benefits.
“Following the verdict, it appears that several jurors commented on the trial, either on social media or during the course of being interviewed for newspaper articles or blog posts,” prosecutors wrote. “None of these hearsay statements are admissible or relevant for any purpose here.”
Milton did “not contest the sufficiency of the evidence demonstrating that he engaged in these schemes to defraud and did so intentionally,” the filing said.
U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos has not ruled on Milton or the government’s filings regarding a new trial. The government asked the judge to delay sentencing from Friday to the spring. Milton’s defense team asked for a sentencing delay until summer.
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