- Lawyers for Trump’s real estate empire rested their case Monday at their tax fraud trial in Manhattan.
- First, however, the trial judge scolded the Trump Organization’s lawyers for a last-minute evidence dump.
- “Good old-fashioned punching bag,” judge Juan Merchan called the defense’s late presentation.
The defense rested Monday in the five-week Manhattan tax fraud trial against Donald Trump’s international real estate empire, but not before receiving a reprimand from the judge for a last-minute dump of evidence.
“It’s inconsiderate to say the least,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan scolded the defense attorneys, who as of midnight Sunday had submitted 18 new pieces of evidence that they expected to show to the jury on the last day of their case.
“There’s just no justification” for the last-minute introduction of a pile of journal entries, reports and emails, Merchan said, likening it to “a good old-fashioned punching bag.”
“I will not take it back,” the judge warned the defense, as jurors and their witness, longtime Trump Organization accountant Donald Bender, waited outside the courtroom for the final day to begin. of testimony.
“It’s almost like you don’t really want me to speak on the subject,” he said. “It’s almost like he doesn’t want me to do it right,” the typically suave judge said, his voice angry.
“I’m not going to let you show a bunch of exhibits that people haven’t had a chance to see,” the judge added.
In another blow to the defense, the judge denied a defense request that they declare Bender as a hostile witness, a status that would have given them more leeway to ask leading questions.
The judge was also skeptical Monday about a new defense theory.
Two members of the Trump Organization, former CFO Allen Weisselberg and top payroll executive Jeffrey McConney, told jurors earlier this month that they realized they broke the law when they executed the tax evasion scheme. in the center of the trial.
On Monday, defense attorneys told the judge that during pretrial proceedings they will tell the jury that although McConney and Weisselberg now know they broke the law, they didn’t at the time.
For the Trump Organization to be criminally liable in the payroll tax scheme, prosecutors must prove that the two executives knowingly they conspired and schemed to evade payroll taxes, and they did it to benefit not only themselves but also the company.
The defense will try to deflect blame from Trump to Bender, the high-priced accountant who they say should have sounded the early warning about the scheme.
Defense attorneys are also expected to tell the jury that the leaders at the top of the company, namely Donald Trump and his three eldest sons, who served as vice presidents, knew nothing about the 15-year payroll scheme, though dozens of memos, invoices and other documents bear Trump’s signature.
The defense is also expected to tell jurors that Trump was just being generous and had no idea his C suite was cheating on taxes when he signed bonuses, raises and tax-free benefits like personal cars and apartments.
The two sides were able to compromise on a limited number of final pieces of evidence, and the defense rested its case for the afternoon.
Jurors were told to return Thursday when they will hear the first of two days of closing arguments.
In the meantime, the two sides will appear before the judge Tuesday morning to refine what the judge will tell the jurors just before deliberations begin.
Until now, the judge has told prosecutors and the defense that when he instructs or “indicts” the jury on the law, he will rely on standard state criminal law jury instructions regarding corporate liability.
Trump’s golf course and real estate company faces up to $1.6 million in fines if convicted of conspiring and conspiring to defraud tax authorities and falsifying years of wage and tax returns.