January 27, 2023

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Nikola’s founder is seeking a new trial, says the juror, who is hiding bias against the wealthy

©Reuters. CEO and Founder of US Nikola Trevor Milton attends a news conference promoting its new all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell battery trucks in partnership with US Nikola at an event in Turin, Italy on December 3, 2019 in Turin, Italy to be introduced. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca /FILE

By Jody Godoy

(Reuters) – Nikola Corp founder Trevor Milton on Thursday asked a judge in New York to overturn his conviction for defrauding investors in the electric vehicle company.

Milton told U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in court filings that the jury’s Twitter and Facebook pages (NASDAQ:) were “littered with attacks on wealthy executives,” though she denied using social media during jury selection have.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Milton guilty in October in a trial after prosecutors said Milton, 40, had become a billionaire for lying to investors about the electric and hydrogen-truck maker’s technology beginning in November 2019.

Prosecutors accused Milton of using social media and interviews on TV, podcasts and print to make false and misleading claims, including that Nikola built an electric and hydrogen-powered “Badger” pickup truck from the ground up.

At trial, Milton was convicted of one count of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud. He was acquitted of another charge of securities fraud.

In court filings Thursday, Milton said a juror said during jury selection that she did not use social media and received her messages through YouTube.

But a check of what Milton said was her social media accounts, implied she read many news sources and showed she had posted about income inequality, Milton said.

“Three words: Tax the rich,” read a post comparing Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg’s 12-figure fortune to the minimum wage in the United States, according to court documents.

If the judge doesn’t allow a new trial, he should hold a hearing to ask the jury whether they lied in court, Milton wrote.

Milton also asked the judge to grant him acquittal on the investor-related wire fraud, saying prosecutors had failed to prove their case.