NEW YORK — A judge on Friday denied the Trump Organization’s motion to dismiss the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal tax fraud case against Donald Trump’s family real estate business and its long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
Among a flurry of motions shot down by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan was one arguing that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and New York Attorney General Letitia James had targeted Trump’s company and its top executives “on the basis of political animus.”
The ruling marks the third legal blow Trump has faced this week. On Monday, federal agents executed a search warrant on his private Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to recover classified documents removed from the White House.
And on Wednesday, James deposed Trump in her long-running civil probe into the Trump Organization’s alleged illegal habit of manipulating the value of company assets like skyscrapers and golf courses by hundreds of millions of dollars to obtain loans, tax breaks and other benefits. The former president pleaded the Fifth.
Merchan set a trial date of Oct. 24 for the Trump Organization trial. Weisselberg and his lawyers had no comment arriving at or leaving the court hearing. He and the company have entered pleas of not guilty.
The entire trial team investigating Trump’s family business sat on the courtroom’s front bench across the aisle from lawyers for the company and Weisselberg.
Weisselberg had claimed, among other arguments, that the case should be thrown out of court because ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen cooperated in the broader criminal investigation from which it stemmed. The chief financial officer said Cohen’s participation was born out of “vengeance.”
In ruling the case could proceed, Merchan found all of the counts against Weisselberg were legally sufficient, as were 14 out of 15 facing the Trump Organization and Trump Payroll Corp. He dismissed a single count of fourth-degree criminal tax fraud against the company. The DA’s office had consented to toss the charge because of the statute of limitations.
The veteran bookkeeper hired by Donald’s father, Fred, in the 1970s, who managed the family fortune for nearly a half century, is accused of receiving untaxed fringe benefits for at least 15 years while heading the company’s finances. The perks included a rent-free apartment overlooking Central Park for his son’s young family, private school tuition and sleepaway camp fees for his grandkids, luxury car leases, relatives’ dental expenses and more, prosecutors say.
The indictments obtained in June 2021 came after Weisselberg refused to flip on his boss, The New York Daily News reported. He could serve up to a year behind bars if convicted at trial.
Once believed to be the only case that could result in Trump in handcuffs, the yearslong criminal probe into his business dealings began to lose steam late last year when three prosecutors on the team quit. 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 DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., left office in late December, the two investigators he’d tapped to head the probe, Mark Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, abruptly resigned.
Pomerantz’s leaked resignation letter said he believed Trump was guilty of numerous felonies and that Bragg should not hesitate to indict him. Bragg has insisted he’s following the facts where they lead.©2022 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.