WASHINGTON (AP) – A fugitive rapper accused of multimillion-dollar political conspiracies across two presidencies was convicted Wednesday after a trial that included testimony from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Prakazrel “Pras” Mitchell was accused of extorting money from a fugitive Malaysian financier through straw donors for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then deflecting a Justice Department investigation and turning to China under the Trump administration There was an attempt to influence an extradition case.
A jury in Washington, D.C., federal court found him guilty of all charges, including conspiracy and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government.
The defense argued the Grammy-winning rapper from the 1990s hip-hop group the Fugees only wanted to make money and received bad legal advice as he reinvented himself in the world of politics.
Mitchell declined to comment after the verdict, but his attorney said he is “extremely disappointed” by the outcome of the case and plans to appeal.
“It’s not over,” said attorney David Keener. “I am very, very confident that we will ultimately prevail.”
Michelle first met Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho in 2006, when the businessman commonly known as Jho Low was leaving large sums of money with the likes of Paris Hilton. Low helped finance Hollywood films including “The Wolf of Wall Street”. DiCaprio testified that Lo had appeared to him as a legitimate businessman and had mentioned a desire to donate to Obama’s campaign.
Mitchell also testified in his own defense. He said that Low wanted a photo with Obama in 2012 and was willing to pay millions of dollars to get it. Mitchell agreed to help and used some of the money he found to pay friends to attend fundraising events. He said no one ever told him it was illegal.
Prosecutors said Mitchell was donating money on Lo’s behalf, and later tried to coax donors with texts from burner phones to keep them from talking to investigators.
After the election of Donald Trump, prosecutors say Mitchell again took millions to prevent an investigation into the allegations. Lo masterminded a money laundering and bribery scheme that stole billions from the Malaysian state investment fund known as 1MDB. Lo is now an international fugitive and maintains his innocence.
Prosecutors said Mitchell was paid to persuade the US to extradite a government critic suspected of crimes there back to China without registering as a foreign agent.
On that allegation, the defense pointed to testimony from Sessions, who was Trump’s top law enforcement official until he resigned in 2018. Sessions said he knew the Chinese government wanted extradition, but did not know Mitchell. The former attorney general said the rapper’s ultimately futile efforts to arrange a meeting on the subject did not seem unreasonable.
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