The trial in the criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney against the Trump Organization is about to begin, as jury selection is set to kick off on Monday.
The company is facing allegations of tax fraud following a three-year investigation, although former President Trump is not facing any charges personally. The business is accused of paying senior executives millions in off-the-books compensation through fringe benefits.
The indictment alleged that executives “received substantial portions of their income through indirect and disguised means, with compensation that was unreported or misreported” by the company so employees could report lower earnings to tax authorities. The indictment also claimed that the company failed to withhold taxes on wages, salaries and other forms of compensation, and then evaded paying payroll taxes related to certain employee compensation.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan expects the trial to last at least four weeks following jury selection, due to the amount of expected evidence from financial records and expert witnesses, which can take a lot of time to present. Jury selection itself could also take weeks if attorneys have trouble finding impartial jurors given that Trump has many passionate supporters and critics. Jurors cannot be eliminated for their political preferences or for disapproving of the former president, but they can be stricken if a party believes they cannot be fair or impartial.
Prospective jurors will not receive a questionnaire as part of the selection process. Instead, each side will ask them questions they have agreed to in advance as they select a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.
District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s key witness is former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who took a plea deal in August. Weisselberg, who was the only individual named as a defendant in the case, pleaded guilty to 15 counts including larceny and tax fraud. His testimony is expected to include details of perks he received, such as rent paid for a Manhattan apartment, leased luxury cars and private school tuition for his grandchildren.
Weisselberg’s sentencing will take place following the Trump Organization trial, but he is expected to get five months in jail with fine of nearly $2 million.
The Trump Organization faces nine felony charges including tax fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. If found guilty, they could have to pay a fine of potentially more than $1 million.
Bragg has said his investigation against Trump himself remains ongoing. The former president also faces a civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused him, his children and his business of submitting false statements that incorrectly valued his properties in order to obtain favorable terms on loans, and “to pay lower taxes, to satisfy continuing loan agreements, and to induce insurance companies to provide insurance coverage for higher limits and at lower premiums.”
Trump attorney Alina Habba called the allegations from James “meritless,” and said the investigation by James’s office was an “unchecked abuse of authority.”
Fox News’s Marta Dhanis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.