What’s at stake as Trump Org. trial deliberations continue

Dec 4, 2022, 7:23 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 3:49 pm
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago Friday, Nov. 18, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Jurors started deliberating Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, weighing charges that former President Donald Trump’s company helped executives dodge personal income taxes on perks such as Manhattan apartments and luxury cars. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s one ballot former President Donald Trump would rather not be associated with: the verdict sheet at his company’s criminal tax fraud trial.

Deliberations are set to spill into a second day Tuesday as jurors weigh charges that the Trump Organization helped executives dodge personal income taxes on perks such as Manhattan apartments and luxury cars.

The case went to the jury Monday following a monthlong trial featuring testimony from seven witnesses, including the company’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg and Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours on Monday and returned to the courtroom with a question just once as they sought to clarify one of the charges.

Here’s a look at what jurors are considering and what’s next for the Manhattan district attorney’s Trump investigation.

THE ALLEGATIONS

Prosecutors charged the Trump Organization in July 2021, seeking to hold the company accountable for the actions of some of its most loyal, longest-serving executives.

Weisselberg, charged in the same indictment, subsequently pleaded guilty to evading taxes on $1.7 million in company-paid perks. He testified at the company’s trial that he conspired with McConney in the scheme, in part by adjusting payroll records to deduct the cost of company-paid extras from his salary.

Weisselberg, a Trump Organization employee since 1986, said the arrangement reduced his tax bill while also saving the company money because it didn’t have to give him a hefty raise to cover the cost of the perks and additional income taxes he would have incurred.

Other executives were also accused of avoiding taxes on company perks, but no one else was charged.

Jurors are being asked to decide if Weisselberg was a “high managerial agent” acting on the company’s behalf when he hatched his tax dodge scheme, as prosecutors allege, or if he was acting in his own interest, as Trump Organization lawyers contend.

They must also determine if he intended to benefit the company’s bottom line, not just his own.

THE CHARGES

Technically speaking, it’s not the Trump Organization, but two subsidiary entities that are charged. They are: the Trump Corporation, which handles executive management functions for Trump’s real estate empire; and Trump Payroll Corporation, through which it pays employees, cuts bonus checks and prepares W2 tax forms.

The charges include criminal tax fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. The Trump Corporation is charged with nine counts. The Trump Payroll Corporation is charged with eight. Each entity has its own defense team.

About 40 minutes into deliberations, jurors sent a note asking the judge to reread the elements of one of the charges, conspiracy to defraud in the fourth degree.

THE DEFENSE

Trump Organization lawyers, repeating the mantra “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” argued that the executive went rogue and betrayed the company’s trust. They say any benefit to the company from his scheme was ancillary, minimal and unintentional. The defense also suggested longtime company accountant Donald Bender should’ve caught the fraud.

Weisselberg testified that neither Trump nor Trump’s family had any knowledge of what he was doing, a win for the defense. But prosecutor Joshua Steinglass attempted to refute the claim in his closing argument, arguing that evidence showed Trump “knew exactly what was going on.”

Steinglass showed jurors a lease Trump signed for Weisselberg’s company-paid apartment and a memo Trump initialed authorizing a pay cut for another executive who got perks, saying they illustrated that Trump was “explicitly sanctioning tax fraud.”

Before deliberations, Judge Juan Manuel Merchan reminded jurors of their vow to set aside any personal feelings they may have about Trump and his politics.

“Mr. Trump and his family are not on trial here before you,” the judge advised. “Although you heard numerous references (to Trump), they were permitted solely to allow you to assess witness credibility and to allow the people and the defendants to advance their arguments.”

POTENTIAL PENALTY

If convicted, the Trump Organization could be fined up to $1.6 million. Beyond the official punishment, a conviction could make it more difficult for the company to secure loans and make deals.

WHO TESTIFIED

Both sides presented relatively sparse cases revolving around just a few key witnesses backed by reams of paper evidence, including spreadsheets, tax forms and checks stubs. In all, seven people testified — five for the prosecution and two for the defense. Those distinctions didn’t always stick.

Weisselberg and McConney, both prosecution witnesses, helped the defense at times. Bender, who spent years preparing tax returns for Trump and his businesses, was called by the defense but occasionally helped the prosecution.

Prosecutors led off with McConney, who spent parts of five days on the witness stand. He tested positive for COVID-19 on the trial’s second day, delaying the trial for more than a week. After he showed a more favorable demeanor to defense lawyers, prosecutors won permission to treat him as a hostile witness.

Deborah Tarasoff, the accounts payable supervisor, was next. Then came Weisselberg, who testified as the prosecution’s star witness in exchange for a promised five-month jail sentence.

Prosecutors also called a forensic accountant for the Manhattan district attorney’s office and an auditor for the state tax agency.

The defense rested after calling just two witnesses: Bender, whom company lawyers sought to discredit and treat as a hostile witness, and a paralegal who appeared briefly to verify tax information referenced in a 2013 email that Weisselberg sent to Bender.

FUTURE OF INVESTIGATION

Trump himself is not on trial, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent his strongest signal yet Monday that he’s seriously looking at whether to charge the former president after saying for months that the probe is “active and ongoing.”

Bragg announced he’s putting Matthew Colangelo, who led Trump-related investigations at the New York attorney general’s office, in charge of sensitive and high-profile white-collar investigations such as the Trump probe.

The Trump Organization case is the only trial to arise from the three-year investigation. No former president has ever been charged with a crime.

___

Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak and send confidential tips by visiting https://www.ap.org/tips/

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google, speaks at the Google AI@ event on W...
Associated Press

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz

Before the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was unleashed into the world, the novelist Robin Sloan was testing a similar AI writing assistant built by researchers at Google.
13 hours ago
budgets...
Associated Press

Group’s lawsuit seeks to void Washington transportation law

A conservative legal advocacy organization is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion transportation funding bill passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year.
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Dance hall 911 caller: ‘He might start shooting again’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A gunman had fired his first deadly shots outside a dance hall when Monterey Park police got a call for help from a man trying to make sense of what happened to his partner sitting in the car next to him. “Is your girlfriend awake?” the dispatcher asked. “I’m not sure,” […]
2 days ago
Cricket Hall speaks against a bill that would ban gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy for ...
Associated Press

Crowds decry gender-affirming treatment ban in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Crowds at the West Virginia state Capitol pleaded with lawmakers Thursday to show as much compassion for saving the lives of transgender children as they showed for unborn fetuses when they voted to ban abortion just months ago. Over and over, dozens of doctors, parents and LGBTQ people told the Republican […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for March delivery fell 53 cents to $75.88 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude for April delivery fell 67 cents to $82.17 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for March delivery was unchanged at $2.45 a gallon. March heating oil fell 5 cents $2.90 a gallon. March natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.46 […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

1 dead, officer wounded in shooting at Memphis library

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A shooting at a Tennessee library on Thursday left one person dead and a police officer “critically” wounded, authorities said. Officers were called to the Poplar-White Station Library around 12:30 p.m., the Memphis Police Department tweeted. Both the person and the officer were shot, police said. The person was pronounced dead […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
What’s at stake as Trump Org. trial deliberations continue