Indian-American pleads not guilty to campaign finance fraud
New York: Indian-American author Dinesh D'Souza, who had made a documentary critical of President Barack Obama, has pleaded not guilty in a US court to charges of violating federal campaign finance laws.
Manhattan's India-born top federal prosecutor Preet Bharara brought charges against 52-year-old D'Souza of making illegal contributions to a US Senate campaign of Republican Wendy Long in 2012.
Mumbai-native D'Souza was yesterday arraigned in federal court here when he entered the not guilty plea to one count of causing USD 20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
He faces upto seven years in prison if convicted.
D'Souza was released on a USD 500,000 bond and his travel has been restricted within the US.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March.
During the arraignment hearing, D'Souza's defence lawyer Benjamin Brafman said his client's conduct as alleged in the indictment brought by Bharara cannot be deemed as criminal.
"It's an unusual case," Brafman told US District Judge Richard Berman. "I don't think there's much dispute as to what happened, but why it happened and whether it violated federal election law."
"There was no 'quid pro quo' in this case," Brafman said, adding that D'Souza "did not act with any corrupt or criminal intent whatsoever. At worse, this was an act of misguided friendship by D'Souza."
Assistant US Attorney Carrie Cohen said D'Souza had arranged for two individuals and their spouses to contribute a total of USD 20,000 in August 2012 to Long's campaign.
D'Souza had later reimbursed the donors, Cohen said.
According to US laws, a person can donate a maximum amount of USD 5,000 to a political candidate, with up to USD 2,500 allowed for primary campaigns and USD 2,500 for general election campaigns.
During the plea hearing, prosecutors for the first time identified the Senate candidate as Long, the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Democratic incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012.
Long had not been identified in the indictment.