April 15 trial date set for Trump’s hush money case in New York

(Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

April 15 trial date set for Trump’s hush money case in New York

Election 2024


March 25, 2024

A New York judge has scheduled a trial for April 15 in former President Trump’s hush money case.

Judge Juan M. Merchan made the ruling Monday. The judge had previously scolded the former president’s lawyers as he weighed when to reschedule the trial after a last-minute document dump caused a postponement of the original date.

Merchan had bristled at what he suggested were baseless defense claims of prosecutorial misconduct and seemed unconvinced by the Trump team’s arguments that prosecutors had until recently hidden tens of thousands of pages of data from an earlier federal investigation.

Prosecutors said only a handful of them were new

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The files were relevant to the case, while defense lawyers argued that thousands of pages are potentially important and require careful review. Merchan, who earlier this month postponed the trial until at least mid-April, told lawyers they should have acted much sooner if they believed they did not have all the documents they thought they were entitled to.

The fact that you don’t have a case at this point is truly troubling because the claim the defense is making in all your papers is incredibly serious. Incredibly serious, Merchan said. You accuse the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the people involved in this case of prosecutorial misconduct and of attempting to make me complicit. And you don’t have a single quote to support that position.

Monday’s hearing took place on the same day jury selection was originally scheduled to begin in the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial. It took place on a unique day with major consequences for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee as well as for his legal and political affairs.

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Setting a trial date in the hush money case, a New York appeals court gave him a dose of good news Monday by agreeing to stay collection of his $454 million civil fraud judgment if he pays $175 million within 10 days. dollars on the table.

The hush money case, filed last year by Manhattan prosecutors, has gained traction as it is the only one of the prosecutions against Trump likely to go to trial in the coming months.

The district attorney’s office said there was little new material in the documents and there was no reason for further delay. Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo said in court Monday that the number of relevant, useful new documents is quite small, around 300 records or less.

We strongly disagree, countered attorney Todd Blanche, who said the number is in the thousands and continues to grow. Trump’s lawyers argued that the delayed revelations justified dismissing the case, or at least delaying it for three months.

We’re not doing our job if we don’t independently review the materials, Blanche said. Every document is important.

But Merchan appeared unmoved, asking Blanche why the defense team, which requested a subpoena for the records in January, had not raised concerns about possible missing documents weeks earlier.

Why did you wait until two months before the trial? Why didn’t you do it in June or July? Koopman said.

Trump has denied allegations that he falsified company records. Prosecutors in Manhattan say Trump did this as part of an effort to protect his 2016 campaign by burying what he said were false stories about extramarital sex. Trump repeated to reporters Monday his claims that the case is a witch hunt and a hoax. The prosecutor overseeing the case, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg, is a Democrat.

The case centers on allegations that Trump improperly recorded $130,000 in payments as legal fees on his company’s books to conceal his and other criminal conduct, as Bragg’s deputies detailed in a court document.

The money went to Trump’s then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen, but prosecutors say it was not for actual legal work. Rather, they say, Cohen was merely trying to recover money he paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf so she wouldn’t go public with her claim about a sexual encounter with him years earlier.

Trump’s lawyers say the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees and not cover-up checks.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges including campaign finance violations related to Daniels’ payoff. He said Trump told him to handle it, and federal prosecutors indicated they believed him, but they never charged Trump with any crime related to the case.

Cohen is now a key witness in the Manhattan prosecutor’s case against Trump.

Trump’s lawyers have said Bragg’s office gave them a small amount of material from the federal investigation into Cohen in June. They then received more than 100,000 additional pages after subpoenaing federal prosecutors themselves in January. The defense argues that prosecutors should have sifted through all the documents but instead bury their heads in the sand, hoping to withhold information from Trump’s team.

The material has not been made public. But Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that some of it is exculpatory and beneficial to the defense, adding that there was information that would have helped their own investigation and resulting legal filings earlier in the case.

Bragg’s deputies have insisted they made good faith and diligent efforts to obtain relevant information from the federal investigation. They argued in court filings that Trump’s lawyers should have spoken out sooner if they felt those efforts were lacking.

Prosecutors argue that the vast majority of what ultimately emerged is irrelevant, duplicative or supportive of existing evidence about Cohen’s known federal conviction. They acknowledged in a court filing that there was relevant new material, including 172 pages of notes about Cohen’s meetings with the office of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Prosecutors argued that their opponents had enough time to research the relevant material before the mid-April trial date and were merely making a diversionary move.

Trump’s lawyers have also sought to delay the trial until after the Supreme Court rules on his claims of presidential immunity in his Washington election interference case. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 25.

Michael R. Sisak, Jake Offenhartz and Eric Tucker write for the Associated Press. Sisak and Offenhartz reported from New York. Tucker reported from Washington. AP writer Philip Marcelo contributed to this report.


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