Hamilton Councilman Faces New Trial in Pay-for-Endorsement Case

Following his October conviction for his roles in a pay-for-endorsement scheme, former Ron Paul aide and Hamilton Councilman Dimitri Kesari is scheduled to be back in an Iowa courtroom in February for a new trial.

Kesari, a longtime Paul associate and his deputy campaign manager, was charged for his 2012 role in allegedly paying Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson $73,000 to switch his endorsement from then-Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann to Paul in the run-up to the Iowa caucus and for subsequently hiding the payment from the public and campaign finance regulators.

Jurors convicted Kesari of falsifying records, but acquitted him on a charge that he tried to get Sorenson to deny the payments. The jury deadlocked on three other charges relating to conspiracy and violating specific campaign finance laws.

Early last month, an Iowa federal judge said prosecutors could bring a new trial against Kesari on the deadlocked charges. The trial was first scheduled for Monday, Dec. 14, but that date has been extended to Feb. 8.

Kesari, who has filed an appeal of his conviction, said in an interview with Loudoun Now that, until final disposition is given by the judge on all the legal actions, he will continue to serve on the Hamilton Council.

Kesari said he has checked with the State Board of Elections and the Attorney General’s Office and received confirmation that until final disposition is given, he is entitled to continue to serve on the council.

Kesari’s continued presence on the council has been met with varying degrees of acceptance or discomfort from his colleagues.

Mayor Dave Simpson said Town Attorney Maureen Gilmore conducted a review of the state code to determine Kesari’s status on the council. “It is my understanding that while his appeal is out and he has not yet been sentenced, he can remain on the council,” Simpson said.

The mayor said he does not have a problem with that position, “as long as Kesari does not compromise the town’s integrity.”

If sentenced, Kesari would have to resign immediately, Simpson said.

Council members had mixed views.

Matthew Clark, who has been on council for about a year, said he was comfortable with the decision to let the justice system play out, while Vice Mayor Ken Wine said he did not have a lot of comment on the situation.

Councilman Mike Snyder could not be reached for comment, but Councilman Craig Green said while it’s important that the council work together to govern, “I think Dimitri in his heart knows what his responsibility is. I expect him to do the right thing by the town.”

Longtime Councilman John Unger said he’s received questions from residents—both in and out of town—as to how a man convicted of a felony can still serve on council. Unger said Kesari is a useful representative on the council and works hard for the town, but said he was uncomfortable with the situation—especially as his colleagues do not know the particulars of his appeal.

Kesari has been tried and found guilty, Unger said. “It’s an embarrassment to the town; it would be better if he excused himself.”

Kesari faces up to five years in prison if his conviction is upheld.

Contact Margaret Morton at mmorton@loudounnow.com.

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