© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks throughout a rally to assist Republican candidates forward of midterm elections, in Dayton, Ohio, U.S. November 7, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Closing arguments to the jury by prosecution and protection legal professionals are set to start on Thursday within the felony tax fraud trial of former President Donald Trump’s actual property firm, which is accused of working a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities.
The protection rested its case on Monday in a New York state court docket in Manhattan, having referred to as simply two witnesses, after prosecutors introduced testimony from 5 folks together with star witness Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Group’s former chief monetary officer.
Prosecutors have accused the corporate, which operates accommodations, golf programs and different actual property all over the world, of paying the non-public bills of some executives with out reporting the revenue, and compensating them as in the event that they had been impartial contractors.
The corporate, which has pleaded not responsible, may very well be fined as a lot as $1.6 million if convicted on all 9 counts it faces. Trump, who introduced this month he’ll once more search the presidency in 2024, has not been charged within the case.
Protection legal professionals representing the 2 Trump Group items charged within the case are attributable to make closing arguments to the 12-member jury, adopted by prosecutors, whose presentation is because of begin within the afternoon and end on Friday. The jury is ready to start deliberating on Monday after receiving directions on the legislation from Justice Juan Merchan, the choose presiding within the case. The trial started in October.
The Trump Group has sought to shift the blame to Weisselberg, who has pleaded responsible to tax fraud and different expenses, and Donald Bender, an outdoor accountant who it maintains ought to have blown the whistle on Weisselberg.
To show the Trump Group responsible, prosecutors should present that Weisselberg and different executives acted as “excessive managerial brokers” of the corporate after they carried out tax fraud and that the corporate benefited ultimately.
Weisselberg has labored for the Trump household for about 5 many years and is at the moment on paid go away from the corporate. His testimony got here as a part of a plea settlement with prosecutors below which he is because of serve a five-month jail sentence.
He testified that he improperly acquired bonus funds as non-employee compensation and hid from tax authorities numerous funds from the corporate for his hire, automotive leases and different private bills.
Weisselberg’s testimony additionally could have helped the protection. He advised jurors he was motivated to cheat on taxes by his personal greed, and as soon as choked up on the stand whereas describing how he felt embarrassed about having violated the Trump household’s belief.
Bender, who has been given immunity from prosecution, was the primary witness referred to as by the protection. He testified that he trusted that Weisselberg gave him correct monetary info to incorporate within the firm’s tax returns and was below no obligation to analyze additional.
Trump, a Republican, has referred to as the costs politically motivated. Alvin Bragg, the present Manhattan district lawyer, is a Democrat, as is the DA who introduced the costs final 12 months, Cyrus Vance.
The felony case is separate from a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by New York’s lawyer normal towards Trump, three of his grownup kids and his firm in September, accusing them of overstating asset values and his internet value to get favorable financial institution loans and insurance coverage protection.
Trump is battling different authorized troubles as nicely. He faces federal investigations into his elimination of presidency paperwork from the White Home after leaving workplace and efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, in addition to a state probe in Georgia over makes an attempt to undo his election defeat in that state.