Judge rejects Trump request to delay hush-money trial until Supreme Court rules on immunity – Orange County Register


NEW YORK — A judge on Wednesday rejected Donald Trump’s proposal to delay his April 15 criminal trial until the Supreme Court rules on presidential immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases — rejecting another of the former president’s ploys to delay the historic event. trial. Several others are waiting.

Manhattan Judge Juan M. Merchan declared the request inappropriate, ruling that Trump’s lawyers had “countless opportunities” to raise the issue of immunity before finally doing so last month, well after the deadline for pre-trial motions has already passed.

The timing of the defense’s March 7 filing “raises real questions about the sincerity and real purpose of the motion,” Merchan wrote in a six-page ruling.

Lawyers for Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, had asked Merchan to adjourn the New York trial indefinitely until Trump’s request for immunity in his election interference case in Washington, D.C., is resolved.

Trump claims he is immune from prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his term in office. His lawyers have not raised that as a defense in the secrecy case, but they have argued that some evidence — including Trump’s social media posts about former lawyer Michael Cohen — dates from his time in office as president and should be excluded from the trial because of his status as president. immune protections.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on April 25, a week and a half after jury selection begins in the secrecy case.

Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, declined to comment. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also declined to comment.

Trump first raised the issue of immunity in his criminal case in Washington, which involves allegations that he worked to overturn the results of his 2020 election defeat in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Merchan, in his ruling, drew a distinction between the Washington case — which he called a matter of federal insurrection — and the hush money case he is overseeing.

In Washington, Trump is trying to use presidential immunity to get the charges dropped on the grounds that he has “absolute immunity from federal criminal liability,” the judge wrote. In the silence case, he said, Trump is trying to exclude evidence of what prosecutors called a “pressure campaign” against Cohen and other witnesses.

The hush money case centers on allegations that Trump falsified his company’s internal records to hide the true nature of payments made to his former lawyer Michael Cohen, who helped Trump bury negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign. Among other things, Cohen paid $130,000 to pornographic actor Stormy Daniels to silence her allegations of an extramarital sexual relationship with Trump years earlier.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 counts of falsifying business records. He has denied having a sexual relationship with Daniels and his lawyers argue that the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees and not part of any cover-up.

The secret trial, the first of four Trump criminal cases to be tried by a jury, was originally scheduled to begin March 25. Merchan postponed it until April 15 after Trump’s lawyers complained about the leak of last-minute documents from an earlier federal investigation. in the case that sent Cohen to prison.

Trump and his lawyers continued to push for even more delays, turning complaints about Merchan and concerns about getting a fair trial in a heavily Democratic Manhattan into last-minute pleas for more time. It’s the latest version of the strategy Trump proclaimed to television cameras outside a preliminary hearing in February: “We want delays.”

Trump’s lawyers are again urging Merchan to withdraw from the case, arguing in a letter to the judge this week that he may have a conflict of interest because of his daughter’s work as a Democratic political consultant. Mercan rejected a similar recusal request last year. If he were to leave now, it would disrupt the trial schedule, with time needed to appoint a new judge and bring that person up to speed.

In other recent filings, Trump’s lawyers have argued that the trial should be delayed indefinitely until “damaging media coverage” of the case dissipates. They also claim that in seeking to make their case about the 2016 election, liberal district attorneys are “working to give jurors the opportunity to hold a referendum” on whether Trump won that race .

Prosecutors balked Wednesday, arguing that the publicity surrounding the former president’s unprecedented trial was “unlikely to recede” anytime soon. They blamed Trump’s “own incessant rhetoric” for generating significant publicity, adding that it “would be perverse” to reward him with a delay “based on the media attention he actively seeks.”

Prosecutors said the jury selection process — with additional questions designed to weed out biased candidates — will allow both sides to choose an impartial jury.

In his ruling Wednesday, Merchan wrote that Trump’s failure to raise the issue of immunity earlier strained credulity since the former president’s lawyers had already invoked presidential immunity in an attempt unsuccessful last year to get the hush money case moved from state to federal court.

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