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Jury begins deliberating in criminal tax fraud trial of 2 Trump companies

  • December 06, 2022

former President Donald Trump’s business empire began deliberations Monday following spirited closing arguments and a rejected call for a mistrial last week.

The panel of eight men and four women started deliberating after Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the trial judge, gave them instructions about the law and a directive about Trump.

The former president became the subject of the mistrial motion after Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass asserted Friday that Trump “explicitly” sanctioned the alleged tax fraud scheme at the heart of the case.

Defense lawyer Susan Necheles stressed that evidence showed Trump was not involved. The former president is not charged in the case and did not appear in the courtroom during the trial. However, Trump criticized the prosecution in a social media post late last month.

Merchan reminded jurors that they had promised to put all personal feelings about Trump aside during jury selection.

“I now remind you of your promise and reiterate that Donald Trump and his family are not on trial before you,” said Merchan. He also told the jurors to arrive at their verdict solely “on the evidence and the law against the two defendants” who are charged in the case.

After a few hours of deliberations that began mid-day Monday, the judge dismissed the jury for the day and told them to return to court Tuesday to resume their efforts to arrive at a verdict.

Trump is mounting a third presidential campaign amid multiple legal cases and investigations.  Those matters, and the potential of a criminal conviction in the New York case, could buffet his new campaign for the White House.

The two companies charged in the case, the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation, face criminal fines of up to $1.6 million if they’re found guilty on all counts, along with potential reputational damage. 

Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of Trump’s businesses and an employee of the Trump family for nearly half a century, pleaded guilty to 15 criminal counts in August and became the prosecution’s star witness during the trial.

Weisselberg’s plea was part of an agreement with prosecutors that promises him roughly 100 days in jail, far less than the maximum 15-year prison term he faced, in return for truthful testimony.

Merchan told jurors to put aside any biases and “make sure your verdict stays on the evidence.”

Merchan’s legal instructions focused on a New York state penal law that spells out the circumstances when corporations may be found guilty of committing a crime. It states that a conviction could be supported if evidence shows the alleged criminal activity involved a “high managerial agent acting within the scope of his employment and in behalf of the corporation.”

That could be Weisselberg and or Jeffrey McConney, the controller of the Trump Organization, who grudgingly testified as a government witness after he was granted immunity from prosecution. McConney acknowledged that he helped Weisselberg and other top Trump executives to evade taxes in the alleged scheme.

The judge told jurors they could convict the two corporations of scheming to defraud, one of the charges in the case, only if they determined that prosecutors had proved six elements, including that Weisselberg and/or McConney committed criminal acts, intended to defraud one of more persons and illegally obtained $1,000 or more by their actions.

Merchan also told the jurors that the prosecution must have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Weisselberg and/or McConney were high managerial agents of the companies.

Addressing the meaning of “in behalf of the corporation,” Merchan said “if the agent’s acts were taken merely for personal gain, they were not in behalf of the corporation.” 

He also told jurors “it is not necessary that a criminal act actually benefited the corporations,” and said he may give additional guidance if jurors raise questions about corporate liability during their deliberations.

►GOP silence:Republican leaders mostly silent over Donald Trump’s call to suspend the Constitution

►NY prosecutor closing argument:Evidence shows Trump ‘explicitly’ sanctioned alleged tax fraud scheme at two companies

►Documents:Appeals court overturns special master review of records found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Article source: http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/~/721175546/0/usatodaycomwashington-topstories~Jury-begins-deliberating-in-criminal-tax-fraud-trial-of-Trump-companies/

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