Manhattan DA’s criminal case against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg can continue, New York judge says

NEW YORK — A judge on Friday denied the Trump Organization’s motion to dismiss the Manhattan District Attorney’s criminal tax evasion case against Donald Trump’s family real estate business and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.

Among a flurry of motions dismissed by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan was one that argued that Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James had targeted the Trump’s company and its senior leaders “on the basis of political animosity”.

The ruling marks the third legal blow Trump has faced this week. On Monday, federal agents executed a search warrant at his private home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida to recover classified documents removed from the White House.

And on Wednesday, James deposed Trump as part of his long-running civil investigation into the Trump Organization’s alleged illegal habit of manipulating the value of corporate assets like skyscrapers and golf courses worth hundreds of millions of dollars. dollars for loans, tax breaks and other benefits. The former president pleaded the Fifth.

Merchan has set an October 24 trial date for the Trump Organization trial. Weisselberg and his attorneys made no comment upon arriving or leaving the court hearing. He and the company pleaded not guilty.

The entire trial team investigating Trump’s family business sat in the front bench of the courtroom, across from attorneys for the company and Weisselberg.

Weisselberg had claimed, among other arguments, that the case should be thrown out of court because Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, cooperated with the larger criminal investigation from which it stemmed. The CFO said Cohen’s involvement was born out of “revenge.”

In deciding that the case could proceed, Merchan concluded that all counts against Weisselberg were legally sufficient, as were 14 of 15 against the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp. He dismissed a single count of fourth-degree criminal tax evasion against the company. The prosecutor’s office had agreed to dismiss the charge because of the statute of limitations.

The veteran accountant hired by Donald’s father Fred in the 1970s, who managed the family fortune for nearly half a century, is accused of collecting untaxed benefits for at least 15 years while he ran the company’s finances. Benefits included a rent-free apartment overlooking Central Park for her son’s young family, private school tuition and overnight camp fees for her grandchildren, luxury car leases, dental parents and more, according to prosecutors.

The indictments obtained in June 2021 came after Weisselberg refused to take action against his boss, the New York Daily News reported. He could serve up to a year behind bars if found guilty at trial.

Once considered the only case that could result in Trump being handcuffed, the years-long criminal investigation into his business dealings began to fizzle late last year when three prosecutors on the team resigned. They left because they felt the pace at which the case was progressing was too fast, sources familiar with their decision told The News.

Then, after former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. left office in late December, the two investigators he had chosen to lead the investigation, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, abruptly resigned.

Pomerantz’s leaked resignation letter said he believed Trump was guilty of numerous crimes and that Bragg should not hesitate to indict him. Bragg has insisted that he follows the facts where they lead.

Aubrey L. Morgan