NEW YORK (AP) — Lawyers for Donald Trump’s longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg are asking a judge to dismiss tax evasion charges against him, arguing that New York prosecutors targeted him as punishment because that he would not turn against the former president.
In court documents filed Tuesday, Weisselberg’s lawyer said the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer was “collateral damage” in a “singular crusade” by Democratic prosecutors to get him implicated and help put the former president Republican behind bars.
“Sir. Weisselberg’s unequal and unfair treatment is a consequence of his closeness to Donald J. Trump and his rejection of (the prosecutors’) request to cooperate with (their) investigation of Mr. Trump and his businesses,” wrote Weisselberg lawyers.
Weisselberg was arrested last July for collecting more than $1.7 million in informal compensation, including apartment rent, car payment and college tuition. Trump’s company is also charged in the case, which prosecutors have described as a “vast and audacious” tax evasion scheme.
Weisselberg and the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty. Lawyers for the company also called on Tuesday for the charges against the company to be dismissed.
Weisselberg, 74, is the only Trump leader charged in the years-long criminal investigation opened by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and now overseen by his successor, Alvin Bragg. Several other Trump executives have been granted immunity to testify before a grand jury in the case.
A message seeking comment was left at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday. Prosecutors are expected to respond to Weisselberg’s motion to dismiss in a court filing in the coming weeks.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan gave both sides until the spring to file motions and responses and said he would rule on them at a hearing in July, the next time Weisselberg is due in court. . Merchan said he would likely schedule a trial for late August or early September.
Weisselberg’s attorneys, including Mary Mulligan, Bryan Skarlatos and Rita Glavin, have also asked Merchan to consider dismissing part of the indictment and redacting statements made while in custody on July 1, if the judge does not agree to dismiss the case entirely. Glavin also represents former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Lawyers for Weisselberg argued that some of the charges against him were outside the statute of limitations or otherwise legally flawed. They said Weisselberg’s statements to investigators during the eight hours he spent in police custody after his arrest should not be admissible because they were taken in violation of his rights.
Investigators at DA’s office engaged in conversations with Weisselberg that were “laser-focused on matters relevant to the indictment,” even though they knew Weisselberg was represented by an attorney who was not present at the court. the time, the lawyers wrote. The conversations constituted interrogation and violated Weisselberg’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, they said.
Trump has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but prosecutors noted that he signed some of the checks at the center of the Weisselberg case, which they say stemmed from a 15-year plan “orchestrated by the top executives” of the Trump Organization.
Last week, a judge ruled that Trump and his two eldest children, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr., must answer questions under oath in a parallel civil investigation into his business practices led by the New York Attorney General, Letitia James.
James, a Democrat, said her investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of assets such as golf courses and skyscrapers to obtain loans and tax benefits. Trump’s longtime accounting firm recently dumped him after warning him not to trust years of financial statements he had prepared based on his company’s valuations, given questions about their accuracy. .
Although James’ civil investigation is separate from the criminal investigation, his office has been involved in both, sending several attorneys to work side-by-side with prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. It was evidence uncovered in James’ civil investigation that led to criminal charges against Weisselberg.
In a statement last week, Trump said he believed Weisselberg was innocent and that the charges against the man he described as “a longtime and wonderful 74-year-old employee” were overblown.
The accusation “is that he did not pay taxes on a company car or a company apartment (Do others pay such a tax? Did Cy Vance pay a tax on his car?), and a charge related to the fact that I paid for the education of his grandchildren, “Trump said. “Murderers all over town and they fear that I help in the education of young children?”
In a separate ruling, a judge last week ordered Weisselberg to sit for limited deposition in Washington, D.C., the lawsuit of Attorney General Karl Racine accusing Trump’s inaugural committee of overspending at Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue hotel. to enrich the Trump family.
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