RENO — Potential witnesses in the trial of a former Nevada developer and high-powered lobbyist accused of making illegal campaign contributions to Sen. Harry Reid include Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Rose and a former Republican challenger for the Democratic majority leader’s seat.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks began questioning potential jurors Tuesday for what is expected to be a two-week trial for Harvey Whittemore on charges he illegally funneled nearly $150,000 to Reid’s campaign in 2007.
Whittemore maintains the money he gave to employees were gifts of appreciation, not reimbursement for their donations to Reid.
The judge asked the jury prospects if they could impartially weigh the testimony of a number of potential witnesses, including former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden, who lost the 2010 Senate primary to Sharron Angle, the tea party-backed Republican whom Harry Reid eventually defeated.
Nevada Mining Association President Tim Crowley, Republican state Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks, and former Democratic state Sen. Bernice Mathews of Sparks also are on the list.
Reid, who amended his campaign spending reports to the Federal Election Committee as a result of the case but has been accused of no wrongdoing, was not on the list of potential witnesses the judge read in court Tuesday.
But it was not immediately clear if that list included all those who could be called to testify. Aides to Reid did not immediately respond to questions about whether the senator had been subpoenaed or intends to testify at the trial.
A federal grand jury indicted Whittemore last year on four counts: making excessive campaign contributions, making contributions in the name of another, causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and making a false statement to the FBI.
If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Responding to questions from the judge, none of the potential jurors said they had strong feelings about Reid that would prevent them from being impartial.
Eight who acknowledged they had seen or heard media reports of the case were questioned further in private by the judge and lawyers for both sides, and two were dismissed from the panel, including one who initially said he didn’t think the news reports would sway his decision on whether Whittemore was guilty.
Jury selection was expected to continue Wednesday morning. As of late Tuesday, those still in the pool included a nurse, a casino card dealer, a warehouse worker, a nutritionist, an art teacher, a software engineering manager at a slot machine maker, a retired emergency services manager at a Fallon Hospital, and one man who said he “was a cowboy for a living” before moving from Idaho to Battle Mountain in the 1980s to work at a mine.