The Trump Organization trial began Monday in Manhattan, where prosecutors and attorneys for the former president’s family real estate business began a week-long process to probe New Yorkers about their political biases.
Judge Juan Merchan estimated it would take at least two weeks to find 12 impartial New Yorkers to serve on the Trump Org jury. He expects the trial to last five or six weeks.
The Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corporation have pleaded not guilty to a slew of tax evasion and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say the company operated a 15-year “off-the-books” tax avoidance scheme, disguising millions in taxable income from authorities.
The company tried unsuccessfully to have the lawsuit pushed back, telling Merchan last month that the cooperation of its longtime financier Allen Weisselberg caused the lawyers to rethink their entire defense strategy.
His plea deal requires him to testify at trial about a conspiracy with Trump Org executives to defraud authorities by underreporting taxable income in exchange for five months on Rikers.
Trump has, thus far, sympathized with Weisselberg, who he says is the victim of a Democratic-led plot to prevent him from returning to power.
The deal is one in a constellation facing the former president and his associates as he mulls another White House shooting.
Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a A $250 million lawsuit against the company following a years-long civil investigation into its business practices.
James’ sweeping complaint accuses Trump and top company executives of manipulating the value of his assets to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. He says Trump has usually overestimated his personal net worth by “billions.”
If convicted, Trump entities face significant financial penalties.