Trump Org. trial jury: 8 men, 4 women and some opinions

NEW YORK (AP) — It took just three days to seat a 12-person jury in Donald Trump’s corporate tax evasion trial — surprising even some people involved in the case who thought he would take at least a week to find an unbiased panel in heavily Democratic New York City.

Five of the jurors were sworn in on Thursday, joining seven who were chosen on Tuesday. Six alternates have yet to be seated. That process starts again Thursday and Friday with a second set of potential jurors, but attorneys say they are on track for opening statements Monday.

The eight men and four women selected so far come from a demanding process, including a 32-part questionnaire and individual interview, designed to filter out candidates with unchanging opinions about the former Republican president and his company, the Trump Organization.

The jurors selected were among the least vocal about Trump. Some have admitted they have opinions about him and his leaders, but have vowed to set aside personal thoughts and consider only the evidence presented at the trial, which is being held in state court in Manhattan.

Judge Juan Manuel Merchan said the case – involving allegations that the Trump Organization helped certain top executives avoid income tax on compensation they received in addition to their salary – will likely take about six weeks, which means it could end in December.

Trump himself is not on trial and not expected to testify, but his name will certainly come up a lot.

Trump signed some checks at issue in the case. His name appears on memos and other evidence. Another company attorney, Alan Futerfas, said he expected some witnesses to testify about conversations they had with Trump.

Trump Organization attorney William J. Brennan called the absent Trump “a fog in the room.”

Prosecutors said they didn’t need to prove Trump knew about the compensation scheme to secure a conviction.

They argue the Trump Organization is responsible in part because former CFO Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to taking $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation, was a charged ‘senior officer’. to act on behalf of the company.

Weisselberg, whose benefits included apartment rent, luxury cars and tuition for his grandchildren, agreed to testify in a plea deal that also includes several months in jail.

“This case is not about Donald Trump,” lead prosecutor Susan Hoffinger said.

As quick as jury selection was, the process also underscored how difficult it is to find someone without at least something to say about Trump — especially in Manhattan, where 87% of voters in the 2020 election went with his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

The challenge for defense attorneys, prosecutors, and Merchan has been figuring out which opinions are innocuous, which are disqualifying, and where to draw the line.

A juror made the cut after saying he thought Trump had “acted a little crazy” and narcissistic as president.

Merchan said the man’s negative views of Trump were limited to his presidency and did not involve matters relevant to the case, such as his work as a businessman and his business. He denied the defense’s request to strike the man for cause, and the defense elected not to use any of its limited number of peremptory challenges.

Other decisions were more definite.

A woman who said “Trump continues to lie to the American people saying he won the 2020 election” and another woman who gave glowing endorsements to Trump and his company were both dismissed.

Then there was Noah Passer, a workers’ compensation attorney, whose brutal honesty in revealing how he viewed Trump led to a quick agreement between prosecutors and Trump Organization lawyers that was no good for the jury.

“I absolutely hate him. I think he’s a liar and a crook and a bully. He is a danger to our democracy, international stability and potentially humanity with his environmental policies,” Passer said during open court questioning. “I think his university was a scam. His charity was a scam. He has problems with the truth.

Brennan, the attorney for the Trump Organization, was so excited to send Passer home that he shuffled his notes and started arguing against him while another juror was still under consideration. By the time they arrived in Passer, the parties had agreed on the 12 jurors who were seated, meaning he was to be considered as the first alternate.

Brennan called Passer the “most bubbly and openly hostile potential juror” in the pool and said it was “a no-brainer” that he would be fired.

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