Although Mr. Parnas had strayed beyond his area of expertise, Mr. Bondy said, he had not “willfully” broken any laws. Instead, Mr. Bondy argued, Mr. Parnas had been flummoxed by the intricacies of campaign finance rules.
“He was in well over his head,” Mr. Bondy said. “But he had some good ideas.”
Gerald B. Lefcourt, a lawyer for Mr. Kukushkin, said that his client, too, had lacked “criminal intent” and was not involved in making political donations. Mr. Lefcourt said Mr. Kukushkin had planned to start a legal cannabis business and believed that Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were politically connected experts who could help obtain the necessary licenses.
Instead, Mr. Lefcourt said, the two had taken money meant for business expenses and used it to pay off debts and finance their lavish lifestyles, essentially swindling Mr. Kukushkin.
“They looked at him as unsophisticated and inexperienced — a rube,” Mr. Lefcourt said during his closing argument.
The charges were based largely on extensive documentation that included campaign contribution receipts, bank records and logs of WhatsApp messages exchanged by the main figures in the case.
The evidence helped fill out a picture of Mr. Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, grew up with humble roots in Brooklyn, worked his way into an upper echelon of Republican donors and became a key figure in the impeachment of an American president.
Prosecutors said records showed that a $325,000 donation to the super PAC backing Mr. Trump, America First Action, Inc. had been falsely reported as coming from Global Energy Producers, a company started by Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman. In reality, the prosecutors said, the money came from a loan Mr. Fruman had taken out on a condo he owned.