A NY judge has set an April 15 trial date in Trump's historic hush money case

NEW YORK — Donald Trump will begin his first criminal trial on April 15, a judge ruled Monday, ending a contentious trial in which he repeatedly blamed the former president's legal team.

New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Mercon rejected Trump's claim that the Manhattan district attorney's office acted improperly in relation to the newly obtained evidence. He also insisted on an inquiry into the repayment of the alleged payments It was back on track after a delay he imposed earlier this month.

Although the judge signaled that the new schedule would not prevent the case from moving forward, Trump's lawyers said they intend to file at least one additional motion, this time for pretrial publicity, that they believe could delay the trial. The judge was very skeptical about such a movement.

The case was scheduled to go to trial in late March until the final days of the trial, which defense attorneys say were improperly delayed. About 100,000 pages of potential evidence — records from a past federal investigation into key witness Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and fixer.

Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in 2018 to campaign finance violations for acting at Trump's direction in 2016 to pay $130,000 to an adult film actress who allegedly had sex with Trump years earlier. Trump has been accused of falsifying business records related to the reimbursements to Cohen, classifying them as legal rather than campaign spending. It's one of four criminal trials involving Trump's re-election bid, and the only one with a firm start date, despite being in the middle of the 2024 campaign.

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The issue of new potential evidence is so serious that even Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) acknowledged the need for an early delay to review the content. On March 15, Mercen agreed that the trial would not begin until mid-April. He then arranged a hearing on Monday to discuss the matter.

But after reading Bragg's court filings, Merchan concluded that the district attorney “didn't err in the late production of documents from the U.S. Attorney's office.”

Trump, who sat at the defense table, shook his head in a frown as the judge ruled against him.

Throughout the trial, the judge expressed deep skepticism of the former president's legal claims — asking pointed questions from defense attorney Todd Blanch, then cutting short answers that he found evasive or misleading.

“The way I read some information, I ask for some information and then I ask for your interpretation, which is really different from my interpretation. This has apparently been going on for months.

Unlike prosecutorial misconduct involving potential evidence, Merchon said, prosecutors do their best to be careful and thorough in their handling of the matter.

The Manhattan district attorney “went above and beyond what they should have done, and we're here, and it's weird that we've taken this time,” Merchan said.

Bragg's team provided Trump's team with some federal records about the Cohen investigation last summer and said it had nothing additional. Months later, Trump's lawyers subpoenaed the federal prosecutor's office and obtained a vast array of records that Trump's side now insists are crucial to the case.

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Matthew Colangelo, one of the lead attorneys under Bragg, told Merson that more than 300 of those documents were not relevant to the pending trial. With that assurance, Merson concluded that Trump's rights would not be violated if the trial began in three weeks.

“The defendant will not suffer any prejudice as a result of the production of the document “Because the defendant has been given a reasonable time to prepare material and respond,” the judge said.

At one point, Merchan questioned why someone with Blanche's previous experience as a federal prosecutor had not pursued potential evidence more aggressively. A lawyer who worked for the Manhattan US attorney's office asked the office last year to explain why Cohen did not produce the records, saying Blanche must have realized the district attorney's document preparation was incomplete.

Trump's legal team instead began requesting massive federal records in January, two months before the original March 25 scheduled hearing.

“So you know the defense has the same ability as the prosecution to get these documents. … Why did you wait [until] Two months before the trial? Why not in June or July?” Merson said.

He chastised Blanch for failing to provide any case law showing Bragg's office was obligated to obtain and share the federal case file.

“You're actually accusing the Manhattan DA's office and the people involved in this case of prosecutorial misconduct and trying to make me complicit in it,” Merson said. “And you don't have a single [case law citation] That position should be supported.

During the 45-minute break, Trump learned that an appeals court had sided with him in a separate legal case, sharply reducing the amount of bond he was expected to post in the civil business fraud case he lost to New York Attorney General Letitia. James (D).

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Trump smiled as he re-entered the courtroom from the break And gave a thumbs-up to a member of the gallery.

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