NEW YORK (Reuters) – On Tuesday, a prosecutor in the tax fraud trial of Donald Trump’s company told potential jurors that the government’s star witness, a longtime Trump Organization executive, maybe “reluctant” to answer questions. Some potential jurors have also been kicked off the jury after showing disrespect for the former U.S. president.
“I can’t lie about how much I don’t like Trump. I do dislike him, “One woman who wanted to be a juror said this. Justice Juan Merchan, the judge in charge of the trial, later threw her off the jury on the second day of picking jurors in a New York state court.
Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told 18 potential jurors that former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg, who will testify for the prosecution, is still working for the real estate company.
Steinglass said, “Some of the witnesses work for the defendants, so they might not want to answer the questions.” “Allen Weisselberg is one of the witnesses I want to talk about.”
Steinglass asked potential jurors if they would discount Weisselberg’s testimony because he was trying to get a lighter sentence. None of them said it would make a difference. Weisselberg was told that he would go to jail for five months if he didn’t tell the truth during the trial.
The district attorney’s office charged the Trump Organization and Weisselberg last year with giving some senior executives “off the books” benefits. This allowed some employees to understate their taxable pay and the company to avoid paying payroll taxes.
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Weisselberg admitted in August that he had hidden $1.76 million in income and pleaded guilty to charges like grand theft and tax fraud. As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to testify against the company in court.
Trump is thinking about running for president again in 2024. He has not been charged in the case, which he says is based on politics.
Tuesday, prosecutors and defence lawyers made progress toward choosing a 12-person jury. By early afternoon, seven people had been chosen. The two sides asked potential jurors questions about everything from how they felt about Trump to how they felt about taxes.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization asked potential jurors, all of whom lived in heavily Democratic Manhattan if their feelings about the former Republican president would affect their ability to make a fair and impartial decision in the case.
One potential juror said she did not vote for Trump and “would have gone with some different Supreme Court justices,” but she said she could be fair and impartial. She was chosen to be on the jury.
The Trump Organization asked the judge to throw out a potential juror who called Trump a “criminal.” The judge agreed.
The man said, “I don’t think Mr Trump has any morals.” He also said that he thought he could be fair in this case because the alleged behaviour was “trivial” compared to what Trump had done before.
“I think he’s a bad guy. I think he has hurt this country in a way that can’t be fixed “he went on to say.
The Trump Organization, which runs hotels, golf courses, and other types of real estate all over the world, could have to pay fines of up to $1.6 million for three counts of tax fraud and six other counts. The business has said it is not guilty.
Weisselberg has refused to help Manhattan prosecutors with their investigation. He has only agreed to testify because that’s what his plea deal says he has to do.
He has been with the company for almost 50 years. After he and the company were charged, Weisselberg stopped being the CFO and became a senior adviser. A person who knows about the situation says that Weisselberg was put on paid leave after he admitted guilt. After his guilty plea, the Trump Organization said that Weisselberg was a “good and honest man.”
“Mr Weisselberg will answer all questions honestly, even if he doesn’t want to,” Weisselberg’s lawyer Nicholas Gravante told Reuters on Tuesday.
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