By MICHAEL R. SISAK, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Capping an extraordinary week in Donald Trump’s postpresidency, a New York judge Friday ordered his company and longtime chief financial officer to stand trial in the fall on tax fraud stemming from a long-running criminal probe into Trump’s business practices .
Manhattan Judge Juan Manuel Merchan scheduled jury selection for Oct. 24 in the case alleging the Trump Organization paid CFO Allen Weisselberg more than $1.7 million in unaccounted-for damages , including rent, car payments, and tuition.
Lawyers at a hearing on Friday suggested the trial could take several months.
Merchan denied requests from Weisselberg’s attorneys and the Trump Organization to drop the case, despite dropping a criminal tax fraud claim against the company citing the statute of limitations. More than a dozen other charges remain. Weisselberg’s attorneys argued prosecutors at the Democrat-led Manhattan District Attorney’s Office would punish him for not hitting on the former president.
Merchan denied this, saying that the evidence presented to the grand jury “was legally sufficient to support the charges” and that this trial was properly conducted, its “integrity uncompromised.”
If the schedule holds, Weisselberg and the Trump organization will face trial during the November midterm elections, in which Trump’s Republican Party could gain control of one or both houses of Congress. At the same time, Trump has laid the groundwork for a possible comeback campaign for the presidency in 2024.
The criminal trial is just one of several legal concerns playing out in real time in Trump’s orbit. FBI agents Monday searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida in an independent investigation, and on Thursday he and the US Department of Justice requested the public release of search warrant documents.
Trump sat for testimony on Wednesday as New York Attorney General Letitia James concludes a parallel civil investigation into allegations that Trump’s company misled lenders and tax authorities about assets. Trump has invoked his Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination more than 400 times.
Trump was not charged in the criminal investigation, but prosecutors have found he signed some of the checks at the center of the case. Trump, who described the New York investigation as a “political witch hunt,” said his company’s actions were standard real estate practice and not criminal. Jacob is a Democrat.
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty.
The most serious charge against Weisselberg, aggravated theft, carries five to 15 years in prison. The tax fraud allegations against the company are punishable by a fine of twice the amount of unpaid taxes or $250,000, whichever is greater.
Weisselberg, who turns 75 on Monday, is the only Trump executive charged in the year-long criminal investigation launched by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who went to the Supreme Court to seek Trump’s tax records to secure. Vance’s successor Alvin Bragg is now leading the investigation. Several other Trump executives have been granted immunity to testify before a grand jury in the case.
Prosecutors alleged that Weisselberg and the Trump Organization planned to give executives, including Weisselberg, unofficial compensation for 15 years. Weißelberg alone has been accused of defrauding the federal, state and local government out of more than $900,000 in unpaid taxes and unearned tax refunds.
In the months following Weisselberg’s arrest, the criminal investigation appeared to be working towards a possible criminal charge against Trump himself, but investigations slowed, a grand jury was dissolved and a senior prosecutor left the country after Bragg took office in January — though he did continues to insist.
Although the criminal investigation is separate from James’ civil investigation, which could result in a lawsuit and fines for Trump and his company, her office was involved in both investigations. James dispatched several attorneys to work with Manhattan prosecutors, and it was evidence uncovered in the civil investigation that led to criminal charges against Weisselberg.
Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak. Submit confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.