NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors started deliberating Monday 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.
The deliberations follow a monthlong trial that featured testimony from seven witnesses, including longtime Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg and Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney. An outside accountant who spent years preparing tax returns for Trump and the company also testified.
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. Judge Juan Manuel Merchan obliged, reading through the charge — and pausing occasionally for a cacophony of car horns honking 15 stories below.
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to dodging taxes on $1.7 million in extras, testified that he and McConney conspired to hide extras from his income by deducting their cost from his pre-tax salary and issuing falsified W-2 forms.
Prosecutors charged the Trump Organization in the form of two subsidiaries, Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation. Trump Corporation is charged with nine counts. Trump Payroll Corporation is charged with eight.
Jurors must decide if Weisselberg was a “high managerial agent” acting on the company’s behalf, 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.
Weisselberg testified against the company in exchange for a promised five-month jail sentence. Other executives were also accused of avoiding taxes on company perks, but no one else was charged.
Trump Organization lawyers argue Weisselberg acted on his own, without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge. The company denies wrongdoing.
Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass attempted to refute that claim during his closing argument last week, showing 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.
Trump is not charged. The Trump Organization case is the only trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s three-year investigation of Trump and his business practices.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg has said that an investigation of Trump is “active and ongoing,” and that no decision has been made on whether to charge him. No former president has ever been charged with a crime.
On Monday, Bragg announced the hiring of Matthew Colangelo, a lawyer who led Trump-related investigations at the New York attorney general’s office. As senior counsel, Colangelo will be in charge of the most sensitive and high-profile white-collar investigations conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Bragg said.