LOS ANGELES -- The former national finance director for Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign was acquitted yesterday of charges of having lied to the government about a lavish 2000 Hollywood fund-raising gala.
The former director, David Rosen, had been charged with two counts of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission about the cost of the gala, which attracted such celebrities as Cher, Melissa Etheridge, Toni Braxton, Diana Ross, Brad Pitt, and Jennifer Aniston.
The jury deliberated about six hours before reaching its verdict.
''It was hard for me to hold back tears," Rosen said. ''My whole family is crying, and my attorney is crying. It was the happiest moment, next to my marriage, in my life,"
Hillary Clinton was not charged, but Republicans monitored the trial, hoping that fallout from it might damage her re-election effort for her New York Senate seat in 2006, and that it might scuttle any hopes for a possible presidential campaign in 2008.
Prosecutors said Rosen, 38, was worried about mounting costs for the fund-raiser, and that she lied to conceal its true cost from both the Clinton campaign and the government. They said Clinton was unaware of any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors said Rosen filed a federal campaign finance report to claim ''in-kind" contributions of about $400,000, when he knew that actual contributions for the event exceeded $1.1 million.
It is not illegal for campaigns to accept in-kind contributions, such as the use of cars, hotel rooms, and sound systems. Election law requires that such items be reported so the public knows who is helping a candidate.
The jury foreman, Michael Johnson, 40, said Rosen did not have the ''means" to do what the government had alleged.
''I truly believe that Rosen's role was as a fund-raiser," Johnson said. ''He said he wasn't an accountant."
Another juror, Angelo Sanders, 29, said Rosen's calm demeanor had helped his cause. ''I think everyone thinks he got in over his head" Sanders said.
Prosecutors say Rosen was trying to duck federal financing rules so that Clinton's campaign would have more money to spend on her 2000 Senate race against Rick Lazio, a former US representative.
''We have said from the beginning that, when all the evidence is in, David would be vindicated," said David Kendall, lawyer for the former first lady. ''That has come to pass, and Senator Clinton is very happy for David and his family."
The fund-raiser took place at a 112-acre private estate, and Assistant US Attorney Peter Zeidenberg told jurors that it had cost $90,000 just to get the celebrities and their entourages there. Zeidenberg said organizers had spent $35,000 more to provide attendees with souvenir director's chairs from the event and another $50,000 to produce CDs that were included in the gift bags.
Rosen testified that he had mistakenly thought in-kind contributions, including the
Rosen also said he was mainly involved in raising money for the event and left the actual organizing to others.
The event, which netted just $91,000 in ''hard money," which could be spent directly to benefit a candidate, had been bankrolled by Peter F. Paul, a convicted felon who pleaded guilty in March to separate securities fraud charges.
A defense lawyer, Paul Sandler, told jurors that Paul and another man named Aaron Tonken had concealed the true cost of the event from Rosen.
Tonken is serving a 63-month prison sentence for unrelated charges of defrauding charities of hundreds of thousands of dollars.