Trump Organization, ex-CFO to face October criminal tax fraud trial in New York

A New York state judge rejects requests by the Trump Organization and its former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to dismiss the case

Reuters
Published : 13 August 2022, 06:19 AM
Updated : 13 August 2022, 06:19 AM

A New York state judge on Friday ordered Donald Trump's namesake company and its longtime financial chief to stand trial in October on criminal tax fraud charges, one of a series of legal battles involving the former US president.

Justice Juan Merchan in Manhattan Supreme Court also rejected requests by the Trump Organization and its former Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg to dismiss the case, and said jury selection will begin on Oct 24.

The start date is 15 days before the Nov 8 midterm election when Trump's Republican Party hopes to recapture both houses of Congress from Democrats.

Trump has yet to say whether he plans another White House run in 2024.

On Monday, FBI agents searched Trump's Florida home in an unrelated case, and on Wednesday, Trump sat for a deposition in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil probe into his business.

Trump repeatedly refused to answer questions during Wednesday's deposition, invoking his Fifth Amendment US Constitutional right against self-incrimination.

The Trump Organization and Weisselberg were charged in July 2021 by the Democratic-led Manhattan district attorney's office with having defrauded tax authorities over 15 years by awarding "off-the-books" benefits to company executives.

Weisselberg was charged with evading $1.7 million of income, including rent for a Manhattan apartment, lease payments for two Mercedes-Benz vehicles and tuition for family members, with Trump signing checks for the tuition himself.

Trump's company manages golf clubs, hotels and other real estates around the world.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. Donald Trump has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

In letting the case proceed, Merchan rejected arguments that the defendants had been "selectively prosecuted" out of "political animus" and that Weisselberg was targeted because he would not turn on his longtime boss.

Other charges in the indictment are scheming to defraud, tax fraud and falsifying business records.

The judge tossed one charge from the 15-count indictment against the Trump Organization because it had been brought too late. Another pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Sept 12.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could face fines and other penalties, while Weisselberg could face many years in prison.

The charges arose from an investigation by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. That probe appeared to lose steam after Alvin Bragg succeeded Vance as district attorney in January.

Two prosecutors who had been leading the probe resigned in February, and one, Mark Pomerantz, has said he believed felony charges should be brought against Donald Trump, but that Bragg indicated he had doubts.

It was unclear how long a trial will last. Friday's hearing also addressed scheduling issues to help ensure the process will not drag out.

"This trial will take a long time," Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass said.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
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