Donald Trump hush money trial: New York appeals judge rejects request for delay of April 15 hearing


The decision came Monday, a week before jury selection was set to start.

Trump’s lawyers had argued at an emergency hearing that the trial should be postponed while they seek a change of venue to move it out of heavily Democratic Manhattan.

Donald Trump had asked a New York appeals court on Monday to move his hush money criminal trial out of Manhattan and reverse his gag order in an eleventh-hour bid for a delay just a week before the scheduled start.

At an emergency hearing, the former president’s lawyers asked a judge in the state’s mid-level appeals court to postpone the April 15 trial while they fight for a change of venue. The court signalled it would take up the gag order issue separately at a later date.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove argued that the presumptive Republican nominee faces “real potential prejudice” as a defendant in heavily Democratic Manhattan. Citing defence surveys and a review of media coverage, Bove argued that jury selection, scheduled to start next Monday, “cannot proceed in a fair manner.”

Trump has suggested on social media that the trial should be moved to Staten Island, the only New York City borough he won in 2016 and 2020.

Steven Wu, the appellate chief for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, said trial Judge Juan M Merchan had already rejected Trump’s requests to move or delay the trial as untimely.

“The question in this case is not whether a random poll of New Yorkers from whatever neighbourhood are able to be impartial, it’s about whether a trial court is able to select a jury of 12 impartial jurors,” Wu said. He blamed Trump for stoking pretrial publicity with “countless media appearances talking about the facts of this case, the witnesses, and so on.”

Justice Lizbeth González noted that Monday’s hearing didn’t involve an appeal, per se, but the defence’s desire for an emergency stay — a court order that would prevent the trial from starting on time. She said she would review related court filings and issue a decision “at some point.”

Paperwork relating to Trump’s appeals was placed under seal and not publicly available.

A person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that along with challenging the location of his trial, Trump is also fighting a gag order, which Merchan recently expanded to prohibit Trump from making comments about the judge’s family. The person was unauthorized to speak publicly and did so on the condition of anonymity.

Trump had pledged to appeal after Merchan ruled last month that the trial would begin on April 15. His lawyers had pleaded to delay the trial at least until summer to give them more time to review late-arriving evidence from a prior federal investigation into the matter.

Merchan, who had already moved the trial from its original March 25 start date because of the evidence issue, said no further delays were warranted.

Trump’s lawyers filed their appeals Monday on two separate court dockets. One was styled as a lawsuit against Merchan, a legal mechanism allowing them to challenge his rulings.

In New York, judges can be sued over some judicial decisions under a state law known as Article 78. Trump has used the tactic before, including against the judge in his civil fraud case in an unsuccessful last-minute bid to delay that case last fall.

Trump’s hush money trial is the first of his four criminal indictments slated to go to trial and would be the first criminal trial ever of a former president.

Trump is accused of falsifying his company’s records to hide the nature of payments to his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who helped him bury negative stories during his 2016 campaign. Cohen’s activities included paying porn actor Stormy Daniels $130,000 to suppress her claims of an extramarital sexual encounter with Trump years earlier.

Trump pleaded not guilty last year to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels. His lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump’s move Monday is the latest escalation in his battles with Merchan.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee assailed the judge on social media after he imposed a gag order last month barring Trump from making public statements about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case. After Trump’s complaints, Merchan expanded the gag order to include members of his own family.

Last week, Trump renewed his request for the judge to step aside from the case, citing Merchan’s daughter’s work as the head of a firm whose clients have included his rival President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats.

The former president alleges the judge is biased against him and has a conflict of interest because of his daughter’s work. The judge rejected a similar request last August.

Trump has also made numerous other attempts to get the trial postponed, echoing a strategy he’s deployed in his other criminal cases. “We want delays,” Trump proclaimed to TV cameras outside a February pretrial hearing in his hush-money case.

Merchan last week rejected his request to delay the trial until the US Supreme Court rules on presidential immunity claims he raised in another of his criminal cases. 

Unlock a world of Benefits! From insightful newsletters to real-time stock tracking, breaking news and a personalized newsfeed – it’s all here, just a click away! Login Now!

Catch all the Business News, Market News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on Live Mint.
Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.


Published: 09 Apr 2024, 08:37 AM IST

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *