The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations Monday in the tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization, accused of a sweeping, 15-year plan to compensate top executives at former President Donald Trump’s company off the books.
The deliberations come after prosecutors and the defense delivered closing arguments last week. The 15-count indictment alleges the company and longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg of fraud schemes, tax fraud and falsifying records. Weisselberg was also hit with a large theft report. Prosecutors say he used his position to pay taxes on more than $1.7 million in income.
The case is being heard in the State Supreme Court, New York’s highest court.
Lawyers for the Trump Organization outlined their case that the prosecution’s star witness in the criminal trial, Weisselberg, committed his crimes to benefit himself. The defense argued that prosecutors from the Manhattan Attorney’s Office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was doing so on behalf of the company.
“We’re here today for one reason, Allen Weisselberg’s greed,” defense attorney Susan Necheles said Thursday. She added that Weisselberg “wanted a deal with the government because he knew he was doing something wrong and was afraid of a long prison sentence.”
Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, agreed to testify in exchange for a five-month prison sentence. The ex-CFO received $1.76 million in “indirect employee compensation” through the program, including a rent-free apartment, expensive cars, private schooling for his grandchildren and new furniture, prosecutors said. Other executives were compensated with similar perks, they said, and received bonuses as independent contractors, saving the company’s payroll taxes.
Prosecutors focused on the former president himself during closing arguments, marking a notable shift in the week-long trial that mostly focused on Weisselberg and other senior non-Trump family members. Trump, who announced his 2024 presidential candidacy last month, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
“Donald Trump specifically sanctions tax fraud. That’s what this document shows,” Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass told a Manhattan Criminal Court jury on Friday. “This whole narrative that Donald Trump is happily ignorant just isn’t real.”
Defense attorneys sharply opposed prosecutors’ attention to Trump, which came after attorneys for Trump Corp. and the Trump Payroll Corp. also repeatedly invoked the former president’s name, arguing that he had no knowledge of tax systems or crimes, which Weisselberg admitted.
Michael van der Veen, who owns Trump Payroll Corp. in the case asked the judge for a mistrial, but acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan denied the request. “I don’t think it’s necessary to declare a mistrial, nor do I think it’s a thought,” he said.
Trump has publicly branded the investigation into his company as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” The former president’s company could face fines of up to $1.6 million if convicted on all charges. A conviction could also affect the company’s ability to receive future financing, experts say.
tom winter and Adam Reiss contributed.