Trump’s bet that the New Yorkers will save him from ruin is now even riskier

Former President Donald Trump was beaten by a jury in New York this week, raising concerns about another defeat if his attorneys are granted their request for a jury trial in a separate civil trial in the state.

On Tuesday, a Manhattan jury found the Trump Organization guilty on all 17 counts of criminal tax fraud and other related crimes. After more than a day of deliberations, the jury reached a verdict that has limited financial implications but could hurt his 2024 presidential campaign and give his political opponents new ammunition.

Despite the bad news from Tuesday’s jury, legal experts still expect Trump’s team to grant her request for a jury trial in the New York civil case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The state case accusing Trump and his real estate company of “harrowing” fraud becomes even more significant as it directly names Trump as the accused.

Last month, during a court hearing, the former president’s attorney said that not only is Trump willing to testify in the case, but that he would rather have a jury trial than a bank trial, the latter to be decided by a judge. The civil case is scheduled to be heard on October 2, 2023.

Trump Jury Verdict: Enemy
New York State Attorney General Letitia James (left) watches a news conference September 8, 2022 in New York City. Former President Donald Trump (right) addresses the media during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago November 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. James’ civil lawsuit against Trump is scheduled to go to trial in October next year.
David Dee Delgado/Joe Raedle/Stringer

Some were surprised by the move, particularly in New York, where juries tend to be more liberal and less positive about Trump.

But a jury trial can often benefit the defendant because it is more difficult for prosecutors to get multiple jurors to agree than it is to have a judge decide the fate of the defendant. Because New York’s civil trials require near unanimity and at least five of the six jurors agree on a verdict, Trump’s team could hang the panel if it can convince the jury enough. So a jury trial would make James’ job more challenging — a stumbling block Trump likely wants to put in the way of one of his most prominent rivals.

That said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani and criminal defense attorney Julie Rendelman news week that Trump’s team would also welcome a trial jury, as they have criticized New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over the state case, who Trump claims is biased against him.

Given that Trump’s attorneys have unsuccessfully campaigned to have Engoron removed from the case, Rahmani said it’s likely Trump “would rather throw the dice at six strangers sitting on the jury.”

But Tuesday’s verdict offered a glimpse into the possible outcome of next year’s trial. That’s what former federal prosecutor and former attorney-in-law Michael McAuliffe said news week that James’ case, because it contains a broader set of allegations, could be an “effective act two” of the Manhattan judgment.

Rendelman said that assuming the jury had been following the news and ongoing developments surrounding the former president’s various legal challenges, Tuesday’s verdict could affect the objectivity of future jurors, such as those in the state’s civil trial.

“The Trump Organization will forever be associated with criminal, premeditated criminal activity,” McAuliffe said.

McAuliffe said the key takeaway from the Manhattan crime case was that “the perception that Trump and his circle are somehow beyond the reach of the law and immune to accountability is eroding.” Trump’s bet that the New Yorkers will save him from ruin is now even riskier

Rick Schindler

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