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Jury selection to begin in the Trump Organization's tax evasion trial

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Jury selection begins this morning in Manhattan in the trial of former President Trump's family businesses. NPR's Ilya Marritz reports the Trump Organization is accused of evading taxes by compensating employees through off-the-books benefits, such as luxury cars, apartments and private-school tuition.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: Ex-presidents don't often see businesses they owned charged with crimes, but that's just one of the things that makes this proceeding unique.

DAN ALONSO: Well, it's certainly one of the strangest cases I've ever seen.

MARRITZ: Dan Alonso, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan who's now in private practice. Take the star witness - it's the erstwhile Trump Organization chief financial officer now on paid leave. Allen Weisselberg pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in August, and Dan Alonso notes Weisselberg is being prepped to take the stand both by prosecutors and by the Trump defense team.

ALONSO: The DA is going to know exactly what he's going to say, which is not unusual. And the defense is going to know exactly what he's going to say. And he's presumably going to keep his job.

MARRITZ: The trial's start comes as Donald Trump faces a mounting array of litigation, including a Justice Department probe into his handling of classified documents and a Georgia investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. This case is the culmination of a three-year battle in which Trump went to the United States Supreme Court twice in an effort to block the probe. He lost both times. Alonso says it could take time to seat a jury in Donald Trump's hometown, where he is not well liked, but he is well known.

ALONSO: It's not a disqualifier, by the way, if you have heard about a case. You just need to be able to be fair.

MARRITZ: That's Step 1, as the trial begins today. The Trump Organization has pleaded not guilty. If jurors find otherwise, the maximum penalty could be in the neighborhood of $1.6 million. There's no question they could afford to pay, but if the former president's company is convicted of a felony, that could make it a lot harder to do business.

Ilya Marritz, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ilya Marritz

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