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What Judge Merchan knows about Trump

What Judge Merchan knows about Trump


The first former US president to face a criminal trial and the judge overseeing those proceedings are both children of the Queen. Donald Trump grew up in a fake Tudor house in Jamaica Estates, and Juan Merchan grew up a few miles off Grand Central Parkway in Jackson Heights.

Merchan knows more about Trump than their shared geography.

The New York Supreme Court justice, appointed to the position in 2009, also presided over the case that found the Trump Organization guilty of criminal tax fraud for failing to pay taxes on top executive compensation. That trial resulted in a $435 million judgment that Trump appealed, and a prison sentence for Trump's chief financial officer, Alan Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to perjury.

It also allowed Merchan to become familiar with players in Trump's orbit, including many like Eric Trump and Don. Jr. are potential witnesses in the secrecy case and benefit from Trump's well-known legal tactics to deny, deflect and delay legal proceedings.

Trump lashed out at Merchan in public, calling him a certified Trump hater and saying he was biased because his daughter worked on campaign marketing for Democratic campaigns.

People who have watched Merchan for years paint a different picture. He is known for his soft-spoken, preparedness and efficiency, and has a reputation for not letting his courtroom be dominated by wild antics.

He's just a pragmatic person, says Alberto Ebanks, a criminal defense attorney who litigated before Merchan and graduated a year before him from Hofstra Law. Merchan is fair and in full control of this courtroom, Ebanks said.

This approach has been on display as Trump's trial in New York begins.

During jury selection, Merchan silenced Trump when he exclaimed in court about a potential juror who posted videos of people celebrating after Trump's defeat in the 2020 election. Merchan said to Trump's lawyer, Todd Blanche, that he could hear Trump speaking and see him gesturing, and warned him to have Trump arrested. He was speaking in the direction of the juror, Merchan said dryly. I will not tolerate this. I will not tolerate any juror being intimidated in this courtroom.

Not all of the Mercans' decisions have been against Trump. He told prosecutors Monday that they would not be allowed to show footage from Trump's Access Hollywood tape depicting the seizure of women's genitals. (Prosecutors will be allowed to tell jurors what Trump said.)

But Merchan has shown signs of limited patience with Trump's tactics.

Former US President Donald Trump attends the first day of his trial for allegedly concealing secret money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, April 15, 2024. Michael NaglePOOL/AFP/Getty Pictures

This week, Merchan warned Trump's lawyers not to prolong jury selection in order to delay the trial. So far, Merchan and other New York judges have pushed back against Trump's repeated efforts to delay the trial, including a failed attempt to move the case to federal court, both failed attempts to get Merchan to getting out of the case and a dozen other efforts. to delay the procedure.

Days before Trump's trial began, Merchan rejected Trump's request for a delay over complaints about how the case was portrayed in news reports. In his ruling, Merchan warned Trump's team against “making inflammatory, baseless or outright false claims in filings under oath, telegraphing that he was not going to tolerate many more motions filled with 'unproven accusations'. once again, to express continued and growing concern over attorneys' practice of making serious allegations and representations that have no apparent basis in fact,” Merchan wrote.

Trump has lambasted Merchan repeatedly, in a calculated effort to turn public opinion against the judge and portray him as politically motivated. On Tuesday, coming out of the second day of court, after Judge Merchan summoned seven jurors, Trump described Merchan as a conflicted judge who is “rushing through this trial. This is a Biden-inspired witch hunt and it should end,” Trump told reporters. outside the courtroom.

Trump has repeatedly focused on Merchan's daughter, Loren Merchan, who worked as an executive at Authentic Campaigns, a company that does marketing work for Democratic campaigns such as website design, digital fundraising and mobile messaging. Justice Mercan sought an ethics opinion on whether he should step down. In August 2023, Merchan denied an earlier motion by Trump to recuse himself, writing that he believed the recusal would not be in the public interest and that this Court had examined his conscience and was certain of his ability to be fair and impartial.

Merchan has been a judge for nearly two decades. He emigrated from Colombia with his family to the United States at the age of six and, while living in Queens, studied business administration at Baruch College in New York, eventually graduating from the college in Law from Hofstra University on Long Island. He began working as an attorney in 1994, first as an assistant prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's trial division and then in the state attorney general's office. In 2006, Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Merchan to the Bronx Family Court. Three years later, Democratic Governor David Paterson appointed Merchan to the New York Court of Claims. Also in 2009, Merchan was appointed as an acting justice of the New York Supreme Court, the state's trial court that has broad jurisdiction over criminal and civil matters.

In addition to Trump's lawsuit, Merchan is also a judge in a case against former Trump White House strategic adviser Steve Bannon over allegations of criminal fraud in a fundraising effort called We Build The Wall. This case is expected to go to trial later this year.




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