Nikola Founder Milton Seeks New Trial, Lodges Jury Complaints

Trevor Milton, second left, exits court
Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Corp., second left, exits court in New York on Sept. 12. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

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Nikola Corp. founder Trevor Milton asked for a new trial on charges he misled investors about the electric truck maker’s prospects, arguing the jury convicted him due to bad instructions from the judge and because one juror lied to get on the panel.

Milton was found guilty in October of securities and wire fraud following a monthlong trial, a remarkable downfall for the door-to-door salesman turned billionaire who promised to revolutionize the auto industry. In court filings late Dec. 14, his lawyers argued the jurors mistakenly believed that to convict their client of three of the four counts against him, they weren’t required to find that he intended to deceive investors, when in fact they were.

“The extraordinary facts giving rise to this motion establish a disturbing reality: defendant Trevor Milton was found guilty on three counts even though the jury believed Mr. Milton lacked criminal intent and, if properly instructed, would have acquitted him on all counts,” they said, citing recent comments by jurors in the press.

Milton also said one juror lied to get on the panel, denying during questioning that she held a negative view of wealthy corporate executives and saying she didn’t use social media, getting her news only from YouTube. In reality, Milton says, the juror is an avid user of Facebook and Twitter whose posts are “riddled with attacks on wealthy executives” and “show a close engagement with the news and current events.”

His lawyers also contended his conviction on one count of wire fraud should be dismissed because “there was no evidence that Mr. Milton made any misrepresentations to obtain money from any public shareholder of Nikola stock.”

Requests for a new trial or acquittal are routine but generally unsuccessful.

The case is U.S. v. Milton, 21-cr-478, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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