Jury selection begins in Trump Organization tax evasion trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company goes on trial Monday in a criminal tax case, and the first task facing the court is an important one: choosing a jury of New Yorkers who don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. ‘former president.

Manhattan prosecutors say the Trump Organization helped top executives avoid income tax on employee benefits such as rent-free apartments and luxury cars.

Trump himself is not on trial and should not testify. But the judge and attorneys handling the case will likely seek to steer people away from the jury if they have strong feelings about the Republican, who is unloved in his hometown.

In the 2020 presidential election, 87% of Manhattan voters backed Democrat Joe Biden for president. Trump got 12% of the vote.

After jury selection was completed, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan said he expected the trial to last at least four weeks.

The trial is expected to focus on the actions and testimony of longtime Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty in August to receiving more than $1.7 million in untaxed benefits from the society.

Trump called the investigation a “political witch hunt.” Lawyers for the company said it had complied with the rules.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined more than $1 million. A guilty verdict could hamper the company’s ability to obtain loans and close deals.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg inherited the charge when he took office in January. Bragg has taken a cautious approach with Trump, so far refusing to bring charges against him personally in what is now a three-year investigation.

The jury selection process could take several days, especially if people in the pool express reservations about their ability to be neutral.

Getting a panel with an open mind, however, could be key to avoiding a mistrial.

In the spring, another trial at a nearby federal courthouse ended in a mistrial due to juror tensions over political views. That case involved associates of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon accused of defrauding a charity founded to help pay for a wall along the US border with Mexico.

Eleven jurors in that case sent a note to the judge asking another juror to be removed because that person had shown anti-government bias and accused everyone else of being liberals. The judge refused, and the jury ultimately could not agree on a verdict.

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