Economy

Stocksak: Trump company loses bid for initial jury pool in criminal trial


© Stocksak. FILE PHOTO. Former U.S. president Donald Trump gestures at a rally in Robstown Texas on October 22, 2022. REUTERS/Go Nakamura/File photo

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK, Stocksak – The company of former US President Donald Trump lost Tuesday’s bid to dismiss an initial set of 18 potential jurors for the criminal trial in which the real estate firm was accused of tax fraud. The company claimed that the pool was contaminated by one juror candidate who was biased.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office indicted the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg (its then-chief financial officer) with granting “off the books” benefits to senior executives. This allowed certain employees to understate their tax liability and allowed the company to avoid payroll taxes. August saw Weisselberg plead guilty to tax fraud and grand larceny, while admitting to concealing $1.76million in income.

One juror candidate said in open court Monday that she had strong opinions about Trump and that it would hinder her fairness in the trial. She was called to Judge Juan Merchan’s bench for a private discussion. Then, she was dismissed from the pool.

Michael van der Veen, a lawyer representing the Trump Organization, stated Tuesday that other jurors in a pool were “visibly chill” because they were observing the interaction and may not have answered honestly the question.

Justice Juan Merchan was the judge in New York who was overseeing the trial. The Manhattan district attorney Joshua Steinglass said that it was absurd to suggest that watching one juror leave could have tainted other jurors.

Merchan addressed van der Veen and said, “I can appreciate that in you opinion the other jurors where visibly chilled,” “I can’t claim that I saw that.”

Later Tuesday, defense and prosecution lawyers were expected to begin questioning 18 potential jurors. This is the next step in a weeklong process that will seat a 12-member panel.

Experts told Stocksak that lawyers for Trump Organization will be looking for “stealth jurors” to hide their anti-Trump sentiments in order to get seated on the panel in Manhattan, which is heavily Democratic.

Trump, a Republican who is considering a run for the presidency in 2024 in 2020, is not being charged in this case. He said that the prosecution was politically motivated.

Trump Organization, which owns hotels, golf courses, and other real estate worldwide, could face fines up to $1.6million for tax fraud and six other charges. The company has pleaded guilty.

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