- The criminal tax fraud trial of Trump’s business empire has begun in Manhattan.
- The judge has told about 130 potential jurors that the case could last five to six weeks.
- The Trump Org was charged with “a long-standing scheme to defraud tax authorities,” the judge said.
Jury selection has begun in the criminal tax fraud trial of former President Donald Trump’s company, the Trump Organization.
About 130 potential jurors crammed into a midtown Manhattan courtroom Monday for the group’s initial selection based on whether they can be impartial and serve in a trial that could last until the edge of the holidays.
“Some of you are about to be selected for trial in a criminal case,” said New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan, who swore them in just after 11 a.m.
Some prospective jurors reacted with an audible gasp when told that the case in question was the trial of the former president’s real estate and golf resort business; technically, the people of the state of New York v. The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll. Corporation, who are doing business as the Trump Organization.
Jurors were told that jury selection should take a week and that the trial could take five to six weeks after that. The trial will not take place on Wednesday, Friday afternoon, Election Day, Thanksgiving, or the day after Thanksgiving.
Prosecutors have said their direct case will take two weeks, plus a day of expert witness testimony. The defense case is expected to take three to five days.
The jury ultimately selected in the high-profile trial will determine whether the Trump Organization defrauded tax authorities by allegedly paying executives some of their off-the-books compensation in the form of untaxed perks like free apartments and cars.
Last year, the Trump Organization and its longtime former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, were charged with 15 felonies, including criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records, scheme to defraud and conspiracy.
Prosecutors have charged the defendants with running a 15-year scheme to defraud New York State, New York City and federal tax authorities.
Trump himself is not on trial in the case and has called the charges against his empire a “political witch hunt.”
Weisselberg will be the key prosecution witness against the company after pleading guilty to the tax evasion scheme in August.
He has admitted to pocketing $1.7 million in tax-free perks over 15 years, including luxury Mercedes-Benz cars for himself and his wife, free use of Trump-branded apartments on Manhattan’s Hudson River, and tuition for private schools for their grandchildren.
As part of his guilty plea, Weisselberg, who remains on the company’s payroll as a consultant, must repay $2 million and spend five months in jail.
The Trump Organization, which has pleaded not guilty, could face stiff tax penalties and be fined more than $1 million if convicted.
The conviction could hamper the company’s business dealings and even prompt the government to ban the Trump Organization from doing business as a federal contractor, as Insider previously reported.