Judge in “hush money” trial rejects Trump request to sanction prosecutors

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Manhattan prosecutors will not be penalized for a last-minute document leak that sparked former President Donald Trump. silence criminal trial start later than planned, a judge ruled on Thursday.

Judge Juan Merchan rejected the defense's request to sanction prosecutors for a deluge of nearly 200,000 pages of evidence just weeks before the scheduled start of the trial. The documents were from an earlier federal investigation into the matter.

Merchan agreed to delay the start of the trial from March 25 to April 15 to allow the former president's lawyers to review the material. But at a hearing in March, he rejected his claim that the case had been tainted by prosecutorial misconduct and refused his offer to delay the case longer, throw it out entirely or bar key witnesses from the accusation Michael Cohen i Stormy Daniels to declare

In a written decision issued Thursday, Merchan reiterated that Trump was not prejudiced by the document leak because he and his lawyers were “given a reasonable amount of time to prepare and respond to the material.”

Merchan said he reached the conclusion after reviewing written submissions from both sides, including timelines they provided to chronicle the disclosure of evidence, as well as arguments and clarifications made at the hearing on March 25 on the issue.

The Manhattan district attorney's office declined to comment on the sentencing. A message was left seeking comment with Trump's lawyers.

After 22 witnesses testified over the past month, including Cohen and Daniels, the first criminal trial of a former president is scheduled to move into closing arguments next Tuesday, with jury deliberations expected to continue as soon as Wednesday.

Trump's lawyers had accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office of intentionally not pursuing evidence from the 2018 federal investigation. that he sent Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in jail.

They claimed that prosecutors working under Bragg, a Democrat, did it to gain an unfair advantage in the case and hurt Trump's electoral chances. Cohen, now a vocal critic of Trump, was a key witness in the impeachment against his former boss.

At the March 25 hearing, Merchan said the DA's office had no duty to collect evidence from the federal investigation, nor was the US attorney's office required to provide the documents. What happened was a “far cry” from Manhattan prosecutors “injecting themselves into the process and vehemently and aggressively trying to obstruct your ability to obtain documentation,” the judge said.

“That's not what happened,” Merchan said.

The US attorney's office denied wrongdoing and blamed Trump's lawyers for waiting until January 18 to subpoena records from the US attorney's office, just nine weeks before the trial was to begin. Merchan told defense attorneys they should have acted earlier if they believed they didn't have all the records they wanted.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of falsifying business records by falsely recording payments to Cohen, then his personal attorney, as legal fees on his company's books when they were reimbursements for an alleged $130,000 payment he made to Daniels . Manhattan prosecutors say Trump did it as part of an effort to protect his 2016 campaign by burying what he says were false stories of extramarital sex.

Trump's lawyers say the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal fees, not cover-up checks. Trump denies having sex with Daniels.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign finance violations related to the Daniels bounty. He said Trump ordered him to fix it, and federal prosecutors indicated they believed him, but Trump was never charged.



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