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In Trevor Milton Openings US Says He Targeted Everyday Investors With Nikola Fraud, Defense Says They KnewI

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell book
BBC - Honduras - CIA Trial book - NY Mag

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Sept 13 – The awaited trial of Nikola founder Trevor Milton for wire and securities fraud kicked off on September 13 with opening arguments. Inner City Press was there and live tweeted it. Thread here:

OK - now US v. Trevor Milton opening arguments Jury entering! Judge Ramos: Ladies and gentleman, anything you may see or hear outside the courtroom is not evidence and should not be considered by you. 

[Milton at defense table is whispering with lead counsel Marc Mukasey]

Judge Ramos: And now, the government's opening statement. Mr. Roos.

AUSA Roos: This is Trevor Milton, and he committed fraud. He lied to investors and made a billion dollars. His zero emission trucks, he was lying. He said they had billions of dollars in contracts

AUSA Roos: He lied to innocent investors, to make them buy, so he would profit. In that, he was successful. He became a billionaire virtually overnight. That's Trevor Milton. That's why we're here today.

AUSA Roos: Six years ago, the defendant started a company. It was supposed to make semi-trucks that ran on hydrogen... Not a bad idea. But he needed to make hydrogen and build stations across the country. He showed of a truck he said was fully functional.

AUSA Roos: He went on Twitter. He booked himself on TV and flooded the airwaves with falsehoods on podcasts. Milton knew that the more people who wanted to invest, the richer he'd get. Milton lied about all the important parts: trucks, fuel, sales.

AUSA Roos: The defendant continued to lie about the first truck, that was towed up on a hill and then released. A former employee blew the whistle. Now Milton could have 'fessed up, that he jumped the gun. But he doubled down on his lies.

AUSA: Milton lied about the fuel for these trucks. He said they were making hydrogen. But they weren't. They had no land. All lies. He lied about the orders for his trucks - he said he had a billion dollars in binding contracts, signed on the dotted line

 AUSA Roos: The reality was that 95% were reservations that could be canceled at any time. He lied about the pick up truck he claimed, the Badger. He said it was in-house parts - but it was from Ford F-150 parts. The actual trucks would be made by GM.

 AUSA Roos: He lied over and over and over again. He knew the things he was saying weren't true... Milton targeted ordinary investors, who have day jobs, who invest through TD Ameritrade, and Robinhood. He told his lies on YouTube and Twitter

 AUSA Roos: And that's how Milton committed securities fraud and wire fraud. But those aren't his only crimes. He defrauded a man in Utah, over a ranch the size of lower Manhattan.  Milton said, take the payment in stock. The seller had doubts. But Milton lied.

AUSA Roos: Milton got the ranch. The seller, on the other hand, the stock he got ended up being worthless. Milton is separately charged with wire fraud. You'll hear from witnesses. You'll hear Milton's own words, on podcasts and Twitter.

AUSA Roos: If you listen to the evidence, and use your comment sense, you will find Trevor Milton guilty. Thank you.

Judge Ramos: I see people standing in the back....

Mr. Mukasey, does Mr Milton intend to make an opening? Marc Mukasey: This is a prosecution by distortion. The government says Trevor misrepresented the facts. The truth is that all of the facts were fully disclosed to anyone who wanted to invest.

 Mukasey: Trevor had every reason to believe that what he was saying was true & accurate. The government says that Trevor's statements were significant to investors. But they were not material. The people who bought Nikola stock got exactly what they bargained for

Mukasey: Trevor Milton never intended to deceive anyone. No crimes were committed. That's why Trevor pleaded not guilty in this case. He knew what he didn't know. He needed a team around him. Trevor hired the best and the brightest.

 Mukasey: He hired super smart business guys. What did they have in common? They all shared Trevor's faith in Nikola. This was not a fake it 'till you make it company.

 Mukasey: All of the facts were posted on Nikola's website, and on a government website specifically designed to protect investors.  Yes he was concerned about the stock price. He was right - Nikola was attacked by short sellers

 Mukasey: The short seller published what they called a report. It was really just an article. Trevor and his team stood up to this hit job.  Then the prosecutors starting asking questions. Trevor's team turned on him. They had applauded, but now they turned

Mukasey: One of their witnesses is even trying to get money out of Trevor. Anyone can make you look bad, pulling out of few Tweet here and there. That's just distortion. The government has to show he intended to defraud, beyond a reasonable doubt

Mukasey: Why was Trevor out there on social media? Nikola's team put him out there. Nikola had a whole social media team. Trevor wasn't some bad boy renegade. They were all doing it.

 Mukasey: Trevor spoke on a podcast about Tesla, he spoke on CNBC. He was stoked. He was speaking about his business plan, not what was happening right then, right there. It was about the future.

 Mukasey: It was the Nikola team that scheduled Trevor to go on podcasts. He got pats on the back. Now Nikola witnesses are going to come in and tell you how worried they were. But back then they have him green lights, maybe a few yellow lights. No red.

Mukasey: Trevor didn't always have the best way with words. Trevor was always Trevor, saying things his own way, in his own style. But it was always based on the company's business model. He had a good faith basis.

 Mukasey: The truck rolled down the hill? It was a promotional video before Nikola went public. Special effects are not a Federal crime, as far as I know.  Let me tell you: Peter Hicks is a man who wants money. He sold the ranch, and wanted more

 Mukasey: Hicks has a case against Trevor in Utah. A fancy lawyer might say he has a financial conflict of interest. I say, he's testifying because he wants money.

 Mukasey: Everyone got what they bargained for. We're here on a prosecution about podcasts. About interviews. A trial about tweets? I mean, really? Those platforms were not instruments of fraud. That may be the ultimate distortion. They were for entertainment.

Mukasey: People here yesterday in jury selection said social media is just entertainment. That's why they use it... We won't respond to everything. Their first witness will talk about things six years ago, totally irrelevant, before Nikola went public.

 Mukasey: Trevor Milton is not guilty. Thank you.

Sixteen jurors (12 "real" jurors, 4 alternates who might deliberate) have been selected. Story with more (demographics) on Patreon here.

The case is US v. Milton, 21-cr-478 (Ramos)


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