Trump Org. rests case on sour note in NY tax fraud trial after judge scolds defense over 11th-hour evidence dump

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and the exterior of Trump Tower, where the Trump Organization is headquartered. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, left. Nicolas Economou/Getty Images, right.
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Lawyers for Trump's real estate empire dropped their case Monday in their Manhattan tax fraud trial.
First, however, the trial judge scolded the Trump Organization's attorneys for an 11 hour evidence dump.
"Good old-fashioned sandbagging," Judge Juan Merchan called the belated defense file.
The defense rested Monday in the five-week Manhattan tax fraud trial against Donald Trump's international real estate empire -- but not before getting a tongue-twister from the judge over a burden of proof in the 11th hour.
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"It's ruthless at the very least," New York Superior Court Justice Juan Merchan berated defense attorneys, who filed 18 new pieces of evidence as of midnight Sunday to show jurors on the final day of their case.
"There's just no justification" for throwing in a last-minute batch of journal entries, reports and emails, Merchan said, likening it to "good old-fashioned sandbagging."
"I'm not going to take it again," the judge warned the defense as the jury and their witness, longtime Trump Organization accountant Donald Bender, waited outside the courtroom for the final day of the trial to begin.
"It's almost like you really don't want me to judge this matter," he said. "It's almost like you don't want me to do it right," said the typically mild judge, voice angry.
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"I'm not going to allow you to show a bunch of exhibits that people couldn't look at," the judge added.
In another blow to the defense, the judge denied a defense request to have Bender declared an enemy witness, a status that would have given them more leeway to ask lead questions.
The judge also expressed skepticism about a newly formulated defense theory on Monday.
Two Trump Organization insiders -- ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg and top payroll manager Jeffrey McConney -- told jurors earlier this month that they recognize they broke the law by running the tax evasion scheme at the heart of the trial.
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Defense attorneys told the judge Monday that they would tell the jury during the indictment that while McConney and Weisselberg know now they broke the law, they didn't know it then.
For the Trump Organization to be criminally liable in the payroll tax system, prosecutors must prove that the two executives knowingly conspired and planned to evade payroll taxes, and did so not only for their own benefit but for the company's benefit as well.
The defense will seek to shift the blame from Trump to Bender, the highly paid accountant who they will say should have announced the plan early.
Defense attorneys are also expected to tell the jury that the leadership at the helm of the company -- that is, Donald Trump and his three eldest children, who have all served as vice presidents -- was in the dark about the 15-year payroll system, although dozens of memos, bills and other documents bear a Trump signature.
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The defense is also expected to tell the jury that Trump was just being generous and had no idea his C-suite was cheating on taxes when he signed off on bonuses, raises and tax-free perks like private cars and apartments.
The two sides were able to agree on a limited amount of evidence and the defense shelved its case in the afternoon.
The jury was told to return Thursday when they will hear the first of two days of closing arguments.
In the meantime, the two sides will appear before the judge Tuesday morning to coordinate exactly what the jury will be told by the judge just before they begin deliberations.
So far, the judge has told prosecutors and the defense that when he assigns or "charges" the jury with the law, he will rely on the standard jury instructions of the state criminal code on corporate liability.
Trump's real estate and golf resort company faces a maximum fine of $1.6 million if convicted of years of scheming and conspiracy to defraud tax authorities and falsify payroll and tax records.
Read the original article on Business Insider
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