Judge rules tax case against Trump Organization & former finance chief can proceed to trial
Concluding an anomalous August week for former president Donald Trump that began with FBI agents searching his Florida home, a New York judge on Friday ruled Trump’s company and its longtime finance chief will stand trial in the fall on tax fraud charges stemming from the city’s long-running criminal probe into Trump’s business dealings.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan scheduled jury selection to commence on Oct. 24 in the criminal tax fraud case, which involves allegations the Trump Organization evaded taxes and allowed former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg more than $1.7 million in off-the-books fringe compensation, including rent, car payments and school tuition.
White collar prosecutors with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office have been investigating the Trump Organization and top company executives since 2019.
Spurred by evidence uncovered in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation, the Manhattan DA’s inquiry resulted in criminal tax fraud charges in July 2021 against the company and Weisselberg.
During a brief 20-minute hearing on Friday morning, Judge Merchan denied all of the various requests by Weisselberg’s lawyers to chuck counts of the indictment, and all but one of the Trump Organization’s motions to dismiss, throwing out a loan tax fraud count against the company based on the prosecutors’ prior consent in motion papers.
Weisselberg’s attorneys had argued investigators in the Democrat-led Manhattan district attorney’s office were punishing him because he wouldn’t flip on the former Republican president.
Judge Merchan indicated a written decision will be issued at a later date and set a pretrial hearing for Sept. 12 on whether “prior bad acts” can be introduced at trial.
The judge expects the trial at the New York County criminal courthouse this fall to extend to after Thanksgiving.
If the schedule set on Friday holds, Weisselberg and the Trump Organization will be on trial during the November midterm elections where Trump’s Republican party could win control of one or both houses of Congress. At the same time, Trump has been laying the groundwork for a potential comeback campaign for president in 2024.
Since his surrender in the summer of 2021, Weisselberg has not made any public signals that he is willing to cut a deal with New York prosecutors.
If convicted at trial, Weisselberg, 74, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has insisted his office's investigation remains ongoing despite the February 2022 resignations of the probe’s top investigators, and maintained that charges could still come against the former president.
Trump himself was in Manhattan this week for court-ordered depositions in the state’s parallel civil investigation into allegations Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about asset values. which attorney general James’ office says predated the criminal one.
Answering questions under oath on Wednesday, Trump reportedly invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination more than 400 times.