Manhattan’s Acting Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan presided over the fraud trial of Trump’s namesake real estate company and the related Trump Payroll Corporation ending in a December conviction and $1.6 million in fines.
Merchan also oversaw the sentencing of former Trump financial chief Allen Weisselberg, whose testimony in the fraud case helped secure the convictions.
That may explain Trump’s angry reaction to Merchan’s role in his case.
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“The Judge ‘assigned’ to my Witch Hunt Case, a ‘Case’ that has NEVER BEEN CHARGED BEFORE, HATES ME,” Trump claimed on his social media site Truth Social.
Trump went on to misspell the judge’s name, claiming he “railroaded my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg,” who was sentenced to five months in jail in January for his role in a tax scheme.
The former president’s screed echoed similar attacks launched against prosecutors and judges who have crossed paths with Trump including Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has led the investigation that resulted in the first indictment against a former president in U.S. history.
Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Bragg, accusing him of leading a politically motivated investigation and once referred to him as an “animal.”
In taking aim at Merchan, first appointed to the bench in 2006 by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Trump is following a familiar script.
Yet by all accounts, the judge appeared to take great care in separating the former president from the trial involving the Trump Organization.
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“I now remind you of your promise and reiterate that Donald Trump and his family are not on trial before you,” Merchan told jurors before they began deliberations in the case in December, urging the panelists to arrive at their verdict solely “on the evidence and the law against the two defendants” who were charged in the case.
“Make sure your verdict stays on the evidence,” he instructed.
Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a chief deputy in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office until late 2021, said Merchan is a good choice to handle the Trump case.
“He’s excellent,” she told USA TODAY on Friday, and “calls balls and strikes” as he sees them.
“He’s the real deal,” Agnifilo added. “He controls his courtroom and is the perfect person to control Trump.”
Sarah Krissoff, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan who has closely followed the legal woes shadowing the former president and his companies, said Merchan has the “right temperament and experience to handle this case.”
Noting the judge’s former roles as a prosecutor and service in the New York Attorney General’s Office, along with more than 16 years on the bench, Krissoff said Merchan is uniquely suited.
“He’s been on the bench long enough,” Krissoff said.
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Contributing: Kevin McCoy