- Trevor Milton’s lawyers say he should avoid prison because his fraud conviction is not the same as Elizabeth Holmes’.
- Holmes was convicted on charges of defrauding investors of the blood testing company Theranos.
- Milton was convicted on charges of defrauding investors with exaggerated claims about Nikola’s zero-emission trucks.
Lawyers for the founder of truck manufacturer Nikola Corp. they argue that he should not face prison for cause his sentence for fraud is nothing like the fraud that landed Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes in prison.
Lawyers told a Manhattan federal court judge in a motion filed late Tuesday that Trevor Milton never acted “greedily or maliciously” in building a pioneering company that wants to take the world of battery-powered and hydrogen trucks to new heights.
“There is not a shred of evidence from the trial or from Trevor’s personal life that he was ever motivated by malice, ill will or cruelty,” they wrote.
Milton, 41, was convicted last year of fraud for defrauding investors with exaggerated claims about his company’s production of zero-emission trucks.
Holmes, 39, is serving 11 years in prison for defrauding investors of the blood testing company Theranos.
Milton is scheduled to be sentenced on November 28. Court officials calculated that federal sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence of 17 1/2 years to 22 years in prison, although Milton’s lawyers object to the calculations, saying they significantly overstate the seriousness of the crimes.
“Unlike Holmes, Trevor never put Nikola customers at risk, while Holmes touted and used blood testing technology that she knew was unreliable, thereby putting people at medical risk,” the lawyers said.
They said that in addition to lying to investors, Holmes also defrauded her own board of directors.
“By contrast, whatever Trevor may have done, he did it openly and with the full knowledge of Nikola’s management and board of directors. There were no false documents or financial madness, and there was no threat that anyone would remain silent,” the lawyers said.
In asking for leniency, Milton’s lawyers wrote that Milton had suffered enough after being the subject of an episode of CNBC’s “American Greed” and after being the focus of a The Wall Street Journal podcast titled “The Unraveling of Trevor Milton” along with news reports including the Associated Press.
They said Milton had also been the victim of “shocking and unspeakable online harassment” and had lost some of his closest friends and colleagues, including those who helped him create Nikola.
“Trevor was kicked out of the community he created. His reputation was in ruins. The result was depression and loss for Trevor,” they said.
They urged the sentencing judge to refrain from drawing comparisons to Holmes’ prosecution, noting that Nikola remains “a real company with real products with proven technologies.”
In 2020, Nikola’s share price fell and investors suffered heavy losses as reports questioned Milton’s claims that the company had already produced 18-wheel zero-emission trucks.
During the trial, prosecutors said that Nikola – founded by Milton in a Utah basement six years earlier – falsely claimed to have built its own revolutionary truck by simply slapping the Nikola logo on the General Motors Corp. product.
Last year, the company paid $125 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission civil case against it. Nikola, which still operates from its headquarters in Arizona, has not admitted any wrongdoing.
Holmes’ lawyers did not immediately comment on the case. Prosecutors were expected to present a justification for the verdict next week.