A state lawmaker accused of felony perjury was sent 17 notices giving him a chance to comply with Michigan's campaign finance law, a state attorney told jurors Wednesday.
"This case is about arrogance and greed," First Assistant Attorney General William Rollstin said during opening statements in the trial of Rep. George Cushingberry, D-Detroit.
Cushingberry, who heads the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is accused of lying when he signed and turned in statements declaring he'd met campaign finance requirements in 2004. Republican Attorney General Mike Cox also charged Cushingberry with not filing five campaign finance reports.
Cushingberry's attorney, Gerald Evelyn, said his client is innocent. He's a lifelong public servant who gave the responsibility for campaign statements to a contractor, Evelyn said.
"He just made the mistake of disagreeing with the government," Evelyn told the jury. "I don't know why the government has decided to charge this man."
The prosecution was expected to start calling witnesses Thursday morning.
If convicted of two perjury counts, Cushingberry, 54, faces up to five years in prison and fines.
The Michigan Constitution bars anyone convicted of a felony involving a "breach of the public trust" from serving in the Legislature. If Cushingberry is convicted, it would take at least 73 votes in the 110-member House to expel him. Democrats have a 58-52 edge in the chamber.
Cushingberry served in the House from 1975 through 1982, and from 2005 until now. He also served on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners for 16 years, practices law and is an assistant pastor at a Baptist church. If convicted of a felony, Cushingberry could lose his law license.