Politics & Government

Defense for dad of Alison Lundergan Grimes rests after calling just two witnesses

‘That’s just wrong.’ Attorney for Jerry Lundergan says charges are politically motivated.

Jerry Lundergan's attorney, J Guthrie True, speaks to press outside of federal courthouse downtown after both Lundergan and Dale Emmons made their first court appearance.
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Jerry Lundergan's attorney, J Guthrie True, speaks to press outside of federal courthouse downtown after both Lundergan and Dale Emmons made their first court appearance.

After calling just two witnesses, attorneys for Kentucky Democratic Party stalwart Jerry Lundergan and political consultant Dale Emmons wrapped up their defense Monday, hastening the conclusion of a trial Kentucky politicos are watching closely as it stretches into its fifth week.

The government spent most of a month interviewing witnesses and entering documents into the record as it attempted to prove that Lundergan and Emmons made illegal corporate contributions to the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is Lundergan’s daughter.

The defense attempted to make at least two points with its witnesses. Matt Daley, a top aide to Grimes, painted the government’s key witness, Democratic operative Jonathan Hurst, as the villain of Grimes’ 2014 campaign, which Hurst managed. Another witness, former FBI agent Clay Mason, testified that there was leftover campaign merchandise at a property owned by Lundergan’s business as recently as August, suggesting that some of the materials Lundergan purchased were never used by the campaign.

“We felt like our witness on Friday was a very strong witness,” said Guthrie True, Lundergan’s lawyer, referring to Daley.

In a high stakes trial that could cripple a faction of Kentucky’s Democratic Party, True bypassed some of the higher profile names on his list of potential witnesses, including Grimes, Fayette District Court Judge Lindsay Hughes Thurston and Abagail Lundergan Dobson.

Daley, a Grimes’ loyalist who has worked for her since 2011, attempted to undermine Hurst’s credibility during testimony Friday, painting him as a two-timing political consultant desperate for power and control. He crafted the image of a tyrannical leader, one that holds hour-long meetings to let staff know what they can and can’t put in the campaign refrigerator.

He also painted Hurst as a liar, accusing Hurst of falsely claiming that two people on the campaign had an affair. He said Hurst would fake receiving phone calls from former U.S. President Bill Clinton and that he would show Daley fake polling results. He said Hurst “was verbally abusive. He did things that were very inappropriate and rude.”

During cross examination, Andy Boone, an assistant U.S. attorney, asked Daley if he disliked Hurst.

“I have animosity toward Jonathan, everyone else did,” Daley said, adding that he knew that when someone treats people like Hurst treated them, that “it’s because you grew up in a toxic environment.”

Hurst received immunity from federal prosecution in exchange for testifying against Lundergan — a man he used to call “father” — and Emmons. His testimony that Lundergan once left $20,000 on his couch as payment for political work was the bombshell of the trial, although that allegedly happened in 2015 as Grimes was seeking reelection to her state office. Any violation of state campaign finance laws would have to be tried in state court, not federal court.

In his opening statements, True made the argument that any alleged illegal campaign contributions from Lundergan and Emmons were simple mistakes that resulted from unpaid invoices. Lundergan and Emmons were accused of conspiring to illegally funnel money to Grimes’ campaign through their private businesses, amounting to an illegal corporate contribution to her campaign.

On Monday afternoon, the government’s attorneys attempted to use former Democratic Party chairman Daniel Logsdon to combat a different part of Daley’s testimony — his claim that Emmons was running the party’s coordinated campaign in 2014 (an offshoot of a campaign paid for by the party that uses the candidate in the highest profile race to generate support for people running for other offices) and that he felt the coordinated campaign started the day Grimes announced her candidacy.

The defense has made a point of talking about the coordinated campaign, claiming that Emmons was only receiving a stipend from Lundergan because he was “trying out” for to be the director of the coordinated campaign. Emmons never got the job and the bank account for the coordinated campaign didn’t begin until May of 2014, after Lundergan made payments to Emmons that were not reimbursed by the Grimes campaign.

Logsdon testified that the coordinated campaign did not exist until May, when the bank account opened, and that Emmons would never have gotten the job because they were looking for someone who used technology more effectively.

Earlier in the day, True used Mason to introduce photos of boxes of merchandise that were found in a warehouse owned by Lundergan’s business. True appeared to imply that some of the materials Lundergan purchased for the campaign were never used and that the government didn’t bother to do a thorough investigation. During cross-examination, though, Boone pointed out that the campaign, not Lundergan, paid for at least some of the merchandise shown in the photos and that their investigation targeted records, not the merchandise itself.

The trial, which could shape Grimes’ political future, appears likely to wrap up this week. The two sides are scheduled to begin closing arguments on Wednesday.