Only one person, former CFO Allen Weisselberg, will go to jail for Trump Org. tax fraud scheme.
Former Manhattan financial crimes prosecutors say he could now face more time than his five-month contract.
A judge could rule that Weisselberg violated the agreement because jurors, based on their verdict, discovered that he lied.
The only executive to go to jail after last week’s Trump Organization conviction for tax fraud he could face more time behind bars if a judge finds, as a prosecutor suggested to the jury in closing arguments, that he “shadowed the truth” on the witness stand.
Allen Weisselberg, the company’s former financial director, will learn his fate in a Manhattan court on January 10, the updated date of his sentence.
He has been promised a five-month jail sentence as part of his august plea deal.
But that agreement required Weisselberg, 75, to testify candidly against former President Donald Trump’s real estate company, where he has worked since the 1970s. Prosecutors and the verdict itself have questioned whether he did so.
Insider discussed Weisselberg’s testimony and plea deal with five former white-collar crime prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office, and with Cy Vance, the former district attorney who brought the original Trump Organization case before leave office.
They all said that by convicting Weisselberg, the jury showed it did not believe the former CFO when he repeatedly denied on the witness stand that by running a 13-year tax evasion scheme for himself and his fellow executives he also had the intention to benefit. Trump’s company. The intent to benefit the company is vital to a conviction under New York corporate liability law.
This vote of no confidence by the jury, especially when combined with the prosecution’s open distrust of Weisselberg, their own star witness, would allow the trial judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, to overturn the plea agreement. guilt and increase the sentence. the former prosecutors said.
“I would say he didn’t tell the truth and the deal is off,” said Diana Florence, who handled complex corporate corruption cases as head of the construction fraud task force during her 25 years as a Manhattan prosecutor.
“Weisselberg says over and over again, ‘I, along with the Trump Organization,’” Florence, now in private practice, said of her guilty plea. “Then she gets on the stand and says, ‘It was just me.'”
“He stuck to his story that it was all about me and that Trump knew nothing,” said Adam Kaufmann, the bureau’s former head of investigations.
“It was a good try,” added Kaufmann, now a partner at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, PLLC. “But they didn’t believe him.”
Prosecutors also implied that their own witness lied.
Weisselberg’s veracity was also repeatedly challenged by Trump Organization trial prosecutors, who were coerced by the language of new york corporate responsibility law doubt his own stellar witness.
The law says that for companies to be responsible for the crimes of their executives, it is not enough that those executives break the law for their personal gain. The executive must also have an intent to benefit the company, something Weisselberg denied more than a dozen times in three days of testimony.
“The evidence is crystal clear that he had at least some intent to benefit corporations,” prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the jury in closing arguments, directly rebutting Weisselberg on that key legal element.
Steinglass stopped short of calling Weisselberg a liar before the jury. Instead, he called Weisselberg’s “betrayal narrative” a lie and warned the jury that it was “completely false.”
“Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with their top executives,” Steinglass said in his closing arguments, at one point accusing the former president of “sanctioning tax fraud.”
Steinglass and Susan Hoffinger, the two lead prosecutors in the trial, went through the trial presenting ample and compelling evidence that the former president saved millions through the plan and personally signed hundreds of his underlying invoices, memos and bonus checks.
Steinglass even went so far as to suggest that Weisselberg, who certainly trained with Trump Organization lawyers, consulting with them even during breaks in his testimony, was trained and paid to protect the Trump company.
“He has half a million reasons to cloud the truth to his side of the room,” Steinglass told the jury, referring to a possible annual bonus of $500,000 Weisselberg expects in January, in addition to his $1.14 payment package from the Trump Organization for 2022.
“Why do you think they didn’t fire him after he agreed to testify against him?” Steinglass questioned the jury, his voice turning sarcastic.
“Don’t say too much, Allen, or you won’t get that half million,” the prosecutor said mockingly. “We know he needs it to pay the $2 million he owes the state” in taxes, interest and penalties, as provided in his plea agreement, he added.
Weisselberg remains on paid leave as a special adviser to the Trump Organization. “I don’t think they’re going to fire him,” Trump whistleblower Michael Cohen told Insider of Weisselberg, with whom he had worked closely as a former senior lawyer for the company.
“They still need him to shut up,” Cohen said.
Will the district attorney hold Weisselberg to account?
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has the authority to continue to hold Weisselberg to account for “shading the truth,” as his own prosecutor put it.
At next month’s sentencing, Bragg may recommend additional time beyond the promised five months, which Weisselberg’s attorney says equates to 100 days of good behavior.
Steinglass had threatened to do the same during Weisselberg’s plea hearing, telling the judge: “If the defendant fails to comply with the conditions of the guilty plea, including truthful testimony at trial, then the Town will recommend a major state prison.
A spokeswoman would not say what the district attorney’s recommendation to the judge will be in sentencing next month.
But the office has noted that much of Weisselberg’s testimony, in which he described the intricate workings of the tax evasion scheme itself, was crucial in winning last week’s 17-count conviction.
Meanwhile, Weisselberg’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante Jr., is expected to make a strong case in passing that his client did testify truthfully. The jurors simply did not believe him.
Weisselberg has long insisted that Trump was not complicit in the tax evasion scheme, and his testimony never deviated from that, Gravante said.
“The verdict reached by the jury has no effect on Mr. Weisselberg’s legal situation,” Gravante, a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, LLC, told Insider.
“Her only obligation in connection with the trial was to testify truthfully, and she clearly did.”
The judge has the last word
Ultimately, neither the prosecutors nor Weisselberg’s lawyer have the final say in his sentencing.
“There’s another part there,” said John Moscow, who prosecuted complex economic crimes for the district attorney’s office for 30 years.
“A judge might say: ‘You entered into an agreement with me to testify truthfully. Based on your verdict, the jury found that you lied,’” said Moscow, now lead attorney for Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss.
Former prosecutors offered a variety of opinions on what will happen next.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the judge gives him more time,” said one, who requested anonymity because of an ongoing connection to the district attorney’s office.
Cy Vance, the former Manhattan district attorney who brought the Trump Organization tax fraud case before leaving office, said it was “absolutely” clear that jurors did not believe Weisselberg, not when it came to that question. “vital intention to benefit the company”. part of his testimony.
But Vance thought that Merchan, the judge, may be reluctant to “make waves,” especially if his successor, Bragg, doesn’t ask for more time.
“I think this judge would be unlikely to criticize Weisselberg,” he said, noting, like other former prosecutors, that any deviation from the original plea agreement would bog the case down on another appeal. Lawyers for the Trump Organization have already promised to appeal the verdict.
“I think this is the last thing he wants to see from the Trump litigation,” Vance added of the judge. I’m sure he thought it was an interesting case. But it was a headache.”
Read the original article at Business Insider