Jury selection for the Trump Organization trial started with a warning: brace for a long trial

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Donald Trump
Donald Trump at a rally in Minden, Nevada, on October 8, 2022.

  • The criminal tax fraud trial of Trump’s business empire has begun in Manhattan.
  • Some 130 prospective jurors have been told by the judge that the case could last 5 to 6 weeks.
  • Trump Organization has been charged in ‘a long-time scheme to defraud the tax authorities,’ the judge said.

Jury selection has begun in the criminal tax fraud trial of former President Donald Trump’s business, the Trump Organization.

Some 130 prospective jurors were crammed into a downtown Manhattan courtroom on Monday for the initial culling of the pool based on whether they can be impartial and serve on a trial that could last until the brink of the holidays.

“Some of you are about to be selected for a trial in a criminal case,” they were told by New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, who swore them in at just after 11 a.m.

A few prospective jurors reacted with an audible gasp when told that the case on hand was the trial of the former president’s real-estate and golf-resort business — technically, the People of the State of New York versus The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation, which are doing business as the Trump Organization.

Jurors were told that jury selection should take one week and that the trial could take five to six weeks long after that. The trial will not take place on Wednesdays and Friday afternoons and will be off on Election Day, Thanksgiving, and the day after Thanksgiving.

Prosecutors have said their direct case will take two weeks, plus one day of expert witness testimony. The defense case is expected to take three to five days.

The jury that is ultimately chosen in the high-profile trial will determine if the Trump Organization defrauded tax authorities by allegedly paying executives some of their compensation off the books in the form of untaxed perks like free apartments and cars.

Last year, the Trump Organization and its former longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were indicted on 15 felony counts, including criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, scheming to defraud, and conspiracy. 

Prosecutors have accused the defendants of running a 15-year scheme to defraud federal, New York state, and New York City tax authorities. 

Trump himself is not on trial in the case and he has ripped the charges against his empire as a “political witch hunt.”

Weisselberg will be the key prosecution witness against the company after pleading guilty to the tax-dodge scheme in August.

He has admitted to pocketing $1.7 million in tax-free perks over 15 years, including Mercedes-Benz luxury cars for him and his wife, free use of Trump-branded apartments on Manhattan’s Hudson River and tuition for his grandkids’ private schools.

As part of his guilty plea, Weisselberg, who remains on the company payroll as an adviser, must pay back $2 million and serve five months in jail.

The Trump Organization, which has pleaded not guilty, could face harsh tax penalties and be fined more than $1 million if convicted. 

Conviction could hamper the company’s business dealings and even prompt the government to bar the Trump Organization from doing business as a federal contractor, as Insider has previously reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider