Defense off to a rough start in Trump Org trial as judge sends jurors out of the room during opener
According to Vice's Greg Walters who is live-tweeting the trial of the Trump Organization over accusations of criminal tax fraud, things did not start well for Donald Trump's legal team.
The trial with Trump Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg at the center of accusations of providing employees with benefits in an effort to avoid being taxed, kicked off on Monday with a prosecutor telling the 12-person jury, that "benefits that covered their personal expenses 'was a clever scheme; it just wasn’t legal,'" which then took an awkward turn when the defense began their presentation.
According to Walters, Trump Corp lawyer Susan Necheles was speaking when Judge Juan Merchan interrupted.
"Judge Juan Merchan pauses the defense lawyer's opening statement, releasing jurors out of the room for 15 minutes, saying he understands 'some of you' need a break," Walters wrote. "Judge Merchan then cautions the lawyers in the room not to explain the law (after Trump Org lawyers claimed the case was really only about cheating on personal income taxes)."
He then added Merchan stated, "I will permit you to say that he acted solely for his benefit, and that’s it. It’s a confusing area of the law, and for them to get confused at this point is not going to help anybody.”
Walters continued, "Man, I have never seen a judge excuse a jury for 15 minutes in the middle of an opening argument. For those who've never sat through a trial before, lawyers DO NOT like to be disrupted while making these openers. It's their chance to paint the big picture for the jury."
He then suggested, "Like, multiple sustained objections (3x so far) are one thing, but a lengthy break in the middle is just... weird. It seems a juror, or more than one, needed a break (relatable). But I think it's fair to say this not an auspicious start for the Trump Org defense."
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