For nearly four years, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) gathered evidence in her pursuit of Donald Trump before actually filing her lawsuit accusing the former president, his family and his business empire of pervasive fraud. A Manhattan judge has decided that the road to trial will be much speedier than an investigation.
It has been tentatively scheduled to come to a head on Oct. 2, 2023, a little more than a year after the lawsuit’s filing.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron memorialized the schedule in a three-page order late on Tuesday.
The investigation that spurred the lawsuit against Trump; the Trump Organization; his adult children Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump, Jr.; and several other people and entities took its roots in March 2019. Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen had recently told Congress that his ex-boss inflated and deflated assets to reap tax benefits, sparking civil and criminal investigations.
Both of those probes ran on parallel tracks, and James assisted in the criminal investigation initiated by former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (D), who charged the Trump Organization’s former chief financial office Allen Weisselberg with a decade-long tax fraud scheme. Weisselberg pleaded guilty after Vance’s successor Alvin Bragg (D) took over the role of Manhattan’s top prosecutor, and the disgraced CFO is now a cooperating witness for the government and a defendant in the fraud case.
James’s investigation involved an exhaustive document hunt and copious depositions of Trump and his family members. That process was not without its hiccups. Trump’s lawyers claimed at times not to have documents responsive to the attorney general’s subpoenas, sparking a contempt finding against the former president. Since the civil and criminal investigations had been running concurrently, Trump and his family worried that testifying in their depositions could expose them to criminal liability, and they repeatedly invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
The schedule suggests that Engoron expects the discovery process to be speedier this time, if not also smoother.
Discovery demands must be delivered to all parties by Dec. 9, 2022 — and the responses must be served on or before Dec. 30, 2022.
Fact discovery must be completed by March 20, 2023, and expert discovery will close by June 5, 2023.
The brisk pace toward a trial in state court might hasten an unrelated federal court case accusing Trump and his family of promoting a pyramid scheme.
Filed in 2018, the federal lawsuit alleged that Trump and his adult children lent their name to a “get rich quick” scheme by a company called American Communications Network (ACN), which was featured on The Celebrity Apprentice. The lawyer leading that lawsuit, Roberta Kaplan, also represents writer E. Jean Carroll in her lawsuit accusing Trump of rape. Kaplan asked a federal judge to bring the ACN-related case to trial before the attorney general’s case.
“This development only underscores the importance of setting a trial date in this case, which was filed nearly four years before the NYAG’s case, in order to provide certainty around the schedule and to avoid disruption and delay,” Kaplan wrote. “Balancing the considerations set forth in our letter of yesterday’s date, we believe that a trial date either in August-September or November-December 2023 would be appropriate under the circumstances.”
Read Roberta Kaplan’s letter and the scheduling order here.
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