RENO — The defense rested its case Friday in the illegal campaign contribution trial of former power broker Harvey Whittemore.
Whittemore himself did not testify, but his wife, Annette, was one of the last defense witnesses in the two-week trial before Senior U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks. Prosecutors said they had no rebuttal witnesses.
The jury was sent home about 10:30 a.m. and told lengthy closing arguments would be made on Tuesday, after the long Memorial Day weekend.
Hicks and lawyers from both sides later spent time ironing out instructions to guide the jurors during their deliberations next week.
Whittemore, 59, an attorney and onetime influential lobbyist, is accused of unlawfully funneling more than $133,000 in contributions to the 2007 re-election campaign of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
His defense focused on charactor witnesses, including his wife, Annette Whittemore, who testified about how she and Whittemore met at the University of Nevada, Reno and married while they were still in college 40 years ago.
Under questioning by lead defense lawyer Dominic Gentile she also talked about the couple’s close personal and financial relationship with their five grown children, and of her husband’s love of politics.
When the subject of one of her daughter’s, Andrea, came up, Annette Whittemore choked up and described how she became seriously ill as a young girl with what was later diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Both Whittemore’s have since devoted their lives to finding a cure for the illness and founded a research institute in Reno in Andrea’s name, she testified.
Federal prosecutors spent little time cross-examining her. As she left the witness stand she gave her husband a kiss at the defense table before leaving the courtroom.
Whittermore’s sister, Ellen Whittemore, a lawyer and former deputy attorney general, was the last defense witness.
When asked about her brother’s character, she responded, “I believe him to be very honest and trustworthy.”
Defense lawyers had kept open the possibility of calling Whittemore to testify in his own defense, but in the end opted not to do it.
There was talk that prosecutors would call French as a rebuttal witness if Whittemore took the stand.
Whittemore is accused of using family members and employees of a development company as “conduits” for illegal contributions in 2007 to Reid’s re-election campaign and then lying about it to the FBI.
Prosecutors contend Whittemore duped the Nevada Democrat’s campaign committee into believing the contributions came from the individuals.
Whittemore maintains his family members used their own money to contribute to Reid’s campaign, and any payments to his employees were unconditional gifts.
Contact reporter Jeff German at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-8135.