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Trump Org. jury seeks clarity as deliberations continue

December 6, 2022 Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press
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Jurors in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud deliberated for a second day Tuesday, weighing charges that former President Donald Trump’s company helped executives dodge personal income taxes on perks such as Manhattan apartments and luxury cars.

Jurors returned to the courtroom twice with questions Tuesday seeking a refresher on some of the charges in the complex, numbers-heavy case.

First, they asked the judge to reread three counts of falsifying business records pertaining to the creation of W-2 tax forms for longtime Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg.

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Then, they asked to hear a fourth falsifying business records charge, which involves allegations that Weisselberg ordered an underling to delete “Per Allen Weisselberg” notations from Trump’s general ledger a few months before his 2016 election. The notations were on entries reflecting Trump’s payment of private school tuition for Weisselberg’s grandchildren.

The deliberations follow a monthlong trial that featured testimony from seven witnesses, including Weisselberg and Senior Vice President and Controller Jeffrey McConney. An outside accountant who spent years preparing tax returns for Trump and the company also testified.

The jury deliberated for about four hours on Monday.

Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to dodging taxes on $1.7 million in extras, testified that he and McConney conspired to hide extras from his income by deducting their cost from his pre-tax salary and issuing falsified W-2 forms.

Prosecutors charged the Trump Organization in the form of two subsidiaries, Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation. Trump Corporation is charged with nine counts. Trump Payroll Corporation is charged with eight.

Jurors must decide if Weisselberg was a “high managerial agent” acting on the company’s behalf, as prosecutors allege, or if he was acting in his own interest, as Trump Organization lawyers contend. They must also determine if he intended to benefit the company’s bottom line, not just his own.

Weisselberg testified against the company in exchange for a promised five-month jail sentence. Other executives were also accused of avoiding taxes on company perks, but no one else was charged.

Trump Organization lawyers argue that Weisselberg acted on his own, without Trump or the Trump family’s knowledge. The company denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass attempted to refute that claim during his closing argument last week, showing jurors a lease Trump signed for Weisselberg’s company-paid apartment and a memo Trump initialed authorizing a pay cut for another executive who got perks.

Trump is not charged. The Trump Organization case is the only trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s office’s three-year investigation of Trump and his business practices.

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