Trial Of Trump Org For Criminal Tax Fraud To Move Forward

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Amid concerns about the Trump Organization potentially attempting to stall as a trial over criminal charges of fraud and related offenses approaches, Manhattan Judge Juan Merchan insisted during a pre-trial hearing this Monday the trial would proceed as scheduled, with a start date of October 24, when jury selection will begin.

The Trump Organization was originally charged with a range of financial offenses alongside the company’s then-chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, who no longer holds that formal title at the business. The charges dealt with a years-long scheme in which high-dollar executive benefits — like car lease payments, tuition for members of Weisselberg’s family, and rent-free Manhattan apartment space — were doled out without anyone paying required taxes on the additional, non-cash income. Although Weisselberg isn’t cooperating against Trump in the former president’s personal capacity, he recently pleaded guilty to the 15 felony charges he was facing. A Trump Organization lawyer argued Weisselberg’s admission of guilt fundamentally altered the company’s approach to its defense at the upcoming trial.

“One of the accusations is the defense is trying to stall,” Merchan said Monday in court. “It’s starting to feel that way a little bit… I am repeating. We are not delaying this trial. It’s starting October 24, and we’re going forward.” Considering a company obviously can’t face jail-time, the Trump Organization could end up with substantial financial penalties if found guilty. Merchan indicated amid recent preparations for trial he was blocking the Trump Organization from using the argument at trial it was targeted by “selective” prosecution. The allegation of selective prosecution from the Trump company’s corner is evidently based in the notion these investigative efforts and the subsequent criminal case constitute an attempt to politically get back at Trump or those with close ties to him. “I believe that he will say that he thinks he was targeted because of his association with Donald Trump,” Susan Necheles claimed of Weisselberg. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass refuted her overall description of Weisselberg’s interactions with prosecutors.

Per Reuters, the trial of the Trump Organization is set to stretch across some four weeks. Specific charges originally unveiled by the office of the Manhattan district attorney include conspiracy, grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and falsifying business records. In connection with his guilty plea, Weisselberg agreed to pay around $2 million to cover taxes, penalties, and interest he owed. The wide-ranging benefits he received that went largely unreported also included “unreported cash and furnishings for his apartment and home in Florida,” per the office of the Manhattan district attorney, and the total amount of benefits on which he didn’t pay the required taxes was over $1.7 million. Weisselberg also outlined in his plea admissions how the Trump Organization got out of paying payroll taxes it was required to pay. “The investigation concerning former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization is ongoing,” the district attorney’s office insisted.

Image: Gage Skidmore/ Creative Commons