ORLANDO, Fla. — Wednesday was the first day of trial for Seminole County's GOP Chairman Ben Paris, who is charged with a misdemeanor count of making a campaign donation under someone else's name.

What You Need To Know

  • Ben Paris is accused of making a campaign contribution in his cousin's name

  • The cousin, Steven Smith, testified Wednesday that Paris had told him he had reached a contribution limit and needed his help

  • Paris is one of five people accused of perpetrating a ghost candidate scheme in 2020, though his current trial is solely about the alleged contribution

The jury heard from an integral witness Wednesday: Paris's own cousin. Steven Smith took the stand and testified that Paris reached out to him and allegedly asked for a favor.

"He called me saying a friend of his was doing some last minute fundraising for his campaign that needed some last minute donations, but he had already reached the campaign contribution limit," Smith testified. "So he wanted to know if he could make a donation using my name."

Paris is one of five accused in a ghost candidate scheme in Florida, though Wednesday's trial was solely to determine whether he did or did not contribute campaign funds in a name other than his own.

Prosecutors said that Paris' case is about a campaign and campaign financing.

Investigator Troy Cope testified Wednesday that he found phone calls between Smith and Paris, but none between Smith and Jestine Iannotti, for whom the contribution was allegedly made.

​For hours, the prosecution questioned Cope about various alleged phone longs between Iannotti and Paris.

Finally, Iannotti herself took the stand at the end of the trial's first day.

She testified that Paris had contacted her about running for office, but said she never received deposits to her campaign account through Smith directly.

The trial will start back up again Thursday morning and according to the judge, should wrap up by noon.