Lawyers representing Trevor Milton, the founder of truckmaker Nikola Corp., are making a case for leniency in his upcoming sentencing for fraud.
They argue that Milton’s conviction is not comparable to the fraud that led to the imprisonment of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes.
In a filing to a Manhattan federal court, Milton’s lawyers emphasized that their client did not act “greedy or mean-spirited” as he built Nikola, a pioneering company in the battery- and hydrogen-electric trucking industry.
They pointed out that no evidence from the trial or Milton’s personal life suggests that he was motivated by spite, nastiness, ill will, or cruelty.
Trevor Milton, 41, was convicted of fraud last year for making exaggerated claims to investors about his company’s production of zero-emission trucks. His sentencing is scheduled for November 28, and federal sentencing guidelines recommend a prison term between 17 1/2 and 22 years.
However, Milton’s lawyers dispute these calculations, asserting that they overstate the seriousness of his crimes.
The key argument presented by Milton’s legal team is the contrast between his case and Elizabeth Holmes’.
They contend that Milton never put Nikola’s customers at risk, unlike Holmes, who used unreliable blood-testing technology that posed medical dangers to individuals. Furthermore, Holmes deceived her board of directors, in addition to investors.
Milton’s lawyers emphasize that his actions were done openly and with the knowledge of Nikola’s executives and board of directors.
Legal Battle, Media Scrutiny, and the Future of Nikola
They claim there were no fake documents or financial misconduct, and no threats were made to keep anyone silent.
In their plea for leniency, the lawyers highlight the legal proceedings’ toll on Milton. He has been the subject of negative media coverage, including an episode of CNBC’s “American Greed” and a podcast by The Wall Street Journal titled “The Unraveling of Trevor Milton.” He has also faced online harassment and lost close friends and colleagues who helped him create Nikola.
Milton’s legal team urges the sentencing judge to avoid comparing the Holmes case, emphasizing that Nikola remains a legitimate company with real products based on proven technologies. They argue that despite the challenges, Milton has already faced significant consequences for his actions.
The Nikola case, which saw the company’s stock price plummet in 2020 and resulted in a $125 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, continues to be a subject of legal scrutiny.
Nikola, headquartered in Arizona, remains operational, although it has distanced itself from its founder’s actions without admitting wrongdoing.
Read Next: Las Vegas Teen Fatally Beaten, 8 Arrested in Connection