NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s company thwarted a grand jury investigation last year by repeatedly failing to turn over evidence in a timely manner, leading to a secret contempt finding and a $4,000 fine, according to documents of the court made public on Tuesday.
The Trump Organization was found to have “willfully disobeyed” four grand jury subpoenas and three court orders, to the detriment of Manhattan prosecutors who were left ill-prepared to interview witnesses, Judge Juan Manuel ruled Merchant.
The subpoenas, issued in March, April, May and June 2021, preceded the Trump Organization’s July 2021 indictment on charges of criminal tax fraud for helping executives avoid taxes on benefits paid by the company. The company was sentenced this month and faces a fine of up to $1.6 million.
The $4,000 fine for contempt was the maximum the law allowed.
It is yet another kerfuffle involving Trump and allegations of mishandling or withholding of documents. In April, a judge snubbed Trump and fined him $110,000 for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by the New York attorney general. The former president was also under investigation for keeping confidential documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Merchan vaguely referenced the Trump Organization’s contempt prosecution while presiding over the company’s criminal trial, saying he would wait until it was done to open the records related to an unspecified proceeding held last year.
That proceeding turned out to be the closed-door contempt trial of the Trump Organization on October 7, 2021 and Merchan’s partially redacted 28-page judgment finding the company in contempt, which he issued on December 8, 2021.
While the company’s name was blacked out in the court record released Tuesday, the details of the decision and how it was opened by the judge clarified who was involved.
Manhattan prosecutors, frustrated with the company’s lack of compliance, had been seeking “coercive fines” of $60,000 a day, Merchan said.
Trump Organization lawyers argued that the company had provided a steady stream of documents, at one point totaling more than 3.5 million pages of documents, but Merchan said it was “just enough to dismiss” the request. of prosecution sanctions “without ever fully meeting any of the deadlines”.
“When challenged (the company) came up with one excuse after another,” Merchan wrote. “At times he said it was impossible to meet deadlines because the requests were too large, excessive or vague. error” or technical problems.
In the recently concluded tax fraud criminal trial, two Trump Organization corporate entities were convicted on Dec. 6 on charges including conspiracy charges and forgery of corporate records. Sentencing is scheduled for January 13. The defense has said it will appeal. Trump himself was not on trial.
The company’s former finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, previously pleaded guilty to manipulating the company’s books to illegally reduce its taxes on $1.7 million in fringe benefits such as a Manhattan apartment and car luxury. He testified in exchange for a promise of a five-month prison sentence.
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