By Patricia Hurtado
Sep 20, 2021, 4:45 PM – Updated on Sep 20, 2021, 9:36 PM
Word Count: 748
Weisselberg, 74, and former President Donald Trump’s company on Monday had their first court appearance in state court in Manhattan since he was arrested and both pleaded not guilty to the charges in July.
“What I’m concerned about is he becomes collateral damage as part of a bigger fight between the Trump Organization and the district attorney’s office,” Bryan Skarlatos, a lawyer for Weisselberg said at the hearing before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. Skarlatos had earlier said the defense had “strong reason to believe that there are other indictments coming.”
The lawyer’s suggestion that his client was only an incidental target in the case received immediate push-back from prosecutors who pointed out that, as CFO, he would have been intimately involved with the alleged scheme in which The Trump Organization helped employees avoid income taxes by paying them in part with unreported perks like luxury housing and cars. According to the indictment announced in July by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James., Weisselberg personally reaped the greatest benefit from the scheme.
But it’s also long been believed that Trump himself is the ultimate target in the case and that prosecutors are aiming to gain Weisselberg’s cooperation against his boss. Skarlatos didn’t mention the former president at Monday’s hearing but hinted that the case was only halfway done.
“This investigation has been going on for three years,” the lawyer said. “For some reason, the district attorney decided to indict midstream.”
Vance’s and James’s offices both declined to comment on Skarlatos’s assertion. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, also declined to comment.
The July indictment described other uncharged executives at the Trump Organization besides Weisselberg who received untaxed perks. Prosecutors continue to investigate whether Matthew Calamari, the company’s chief operating officer, similarly benefited, people familiar with the case have said.
“We remain in discussions with the district attorney’s office relating to Matthew Calamari Sr.,” said Nicholas Gravante, a lawyer for Calamari and his son, also a Trump employee. “But we continue to believe there is no basis for indicting him. If they presently intended to indict him, I would have been informed. I haven’t been and, in fact, have not been informed to the contrary.”
Read More: Turning Trump’s CFO Won’t Be Easy for New York Prosecutors
Weisselberg appeared gaunt at the hearing on Monday, much of which focused on the volume of evidence and in the case and the difficulty of preparing a defense because the prosecution’s case was a “moving target.” Skarlatos raised the possibility of additional defendants in part to ask Merchan to grant a delayed briefing schedule.
The defense lawyer said that prosecutors have turned over more than six million pages of evidence. According to Skarlatos, the defense team would have to review 25,000 to 30,000 pages a day, seven days a week, in order to properly assess the state’s case against Weisselberg.
Skarlatos nodded to the existence of other possible defendants when he pointed out that, just before Monday’s hearing began, prosecutors had turned over a box of tax records from the company that “were found in co-conspirators’s basements.”
But prosecutor Solomon Shinerock dismissed Skarlatos’s complaint, noting that the documents shouldn’t be new to his client.
“They are almost exclusively and an overwhelmingly majority are Trump Organization records,” said Shinerock. “Mr. Weisselberg has been with the Trump Organization for 35 years and he’s the chief financial officer. And while he may not have technical access to certain of the records, as to the financial records, Mr. Weisselberg is the boss.”
The judge set the next hearing in the case for Jan. 22, 2022, and also told lawyers to expect that he would set a trial date at the time, most likely to begin in late August or early September 2022. Merchan said he’d decide motions for both sides at a July 12, 2022 hearing.
In a statement released during the hearing, Weisselberg lawyers Skarlatos and Mary Mulligan repeated their earlier insistence that their client would fight the charges.
“We have studied the indictment and it is full of unsupported and flawed factual and legal assertions regarding Allen Weisselberg,” the lawyers said. “We look forward to challenging those assertions in court.”