A New York Jury Speaks: Trump’s Company Committed Tax Fraud
Good morning. It’s Wednesday. We’ll look at the verdict in the trial of Donald Trump’s family business. We’ll also note another milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ll follow a dog from Manhattan that jumped into the Hudson River and was heard from days later in New Jersey.
It was a dramatic reproof to the real estate business that made Donald Trump rich and served as his springboard to reality television and the White House: A jury convicted the Trump Organization of tax fraud and other crimes.
Prosecutors had not indicted the former president, but they invoked him throughout the monthlong trial as they described a company with a “culture of fraud and deception.” The conviction on all 17 counts came after more than a day of deliberations in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.
The verdict provided a win for the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who took office in January and came under fire when he declined to seek an indictment of Trump in a broader investigation. “The former president’s companies now stand convicted of crimes,” Bragg said outside the courtroom after the verdict was delivered. “That is consequential. It underscores that in Manhattan we have one standard of justice for all.”
The Trump Organization, in a statement, lamented that it was accountable for actions by Allen Weisselberg, a longtime financial executive who was the chief architect of the scheme and who pleaded guilty in August. “The notion that a company could be held responsible for an employee’s actions, to benefit themselves, on their own personal tax returns is simply preposterous,” the statement said.
Susan Necheles, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, called the case “unprecedented and legally incorrect” and said the company would appeal the verdict.
The convictions — for tax fraud, a scheme to defraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records — are hardly a death sentence for the Trump Organization. As four of my colleagues note, a company cannot be thrown in jail, and Trump’s corporate entities are not publicly traded, so there are no public shareholders to flee and no financial regulators to levy big fines. The maximum penalty it faces is $1.62 million, practically small change for Trump.
Prepare for more rain, with temps around the high 50s. At night, expect similar conditions with temps in the high 40s.
In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Immaculate Conception).
The latest New York news
Public housing shootings: A man with a long criminal history left two people dead and a 96-year-old man wounded in attacks in public housing projects in Brooklyn and Manhattan before turning himself in, the police said.
New School adjuncts’ strike: A strike by part-time faculty is in its third week, with administrators, faculty and parents fighting over the finances and future of an institution known for its left-leaning politics.
Another milestone in the pandemic
The city’s Pandemic Response Lab, which provided mass testing, is shutting down, even though Covid-19 cases have climbed to their highest levels since the summer.
The chief executive of the robotics company that runs the lab called it “a wartime operation” that is no longer needed. As at-home tests became widespread and the risk of infection dropped, so did business: The lab has handled just a few thousand samples a day lately, compared to more than 40,000 earlier.
Still, cases are up. Transmission in New York City jumped after the Thanksgiving holiday, and the daily average of new cases was just under 4,200, up 65 percent from two weeks earlier. Those cases made up about two-thirds of the statewide total. About 13.2 percent of laboratory tests were positive over a seven-day period, according to city data, a jump from the rates in September and October, when test positivity was mostly below 10 percent.
The lab opened in September 2020 after months of complaints about testing delays. Officials envisioned it as a relatively fast alternative to big laboratory companies that had been barraged with demand from across the country. Run by a robotics company with New York City as its main customer, the lab aimed for turnaround times of 24 to 48 hours for tests from people in New York City.
It processed some 10 million Covid tests, and by early 2021 had expanded into variant surveillance, a sideline that gave health officials details on which new versions of the virus were circulating in the city.
My colleague Joseph Goldstein writes that some health experts hoped the Pandemic Response Lab would be a permanent addition to the city’s medical infrastructure. Jonathan Brennan-Badal, the chief executive of the robotics company, said the company would be ready to help other facilities “rapidly scale up testing volume” or even reopen the lab if the need arose.
“There are more efficient ways to rapidly scale up testing volume than having an underutilized lab operation,” said Brennan-Badal, who said the city had paid the lab roughly $150 million in connection with the testing operation. “That’s our fundamental point of view.”
The dog who swam to New Jersey
This is no shaggy dog story. The dog in question, whose name is Bear, is not shaggy. Smelly, maybe, but who wouldn’t be smelly after a swim across the Hudson River and a few days of roughing it in New Jersey?
Bear had lived with Ellen Wolpin and her 20-year-old son Zack for four days when, on Saturday afternoon, she took him out for a walk. He stopped in the middle of the street, because of course that’s where a dog would stop. She grabbed his collar, holding him so he couldn’t bound in front of a car on West End Avenue in the West 80s.
But he took off.
Someone tried to nab him, but he zipped down a side street and into Riverside Park, where someone else took up the chase. Later the someone else would tell Wolpin that he was not a runner, was not in shape for the 30-block marathon that unfolded and that “some guy on a bike ended up helping him.”
But Bear, a Leonberger-Bernese mix, eluded them, jumping into the Hudson River around 110th Street. She called 911. Patrol boats were dispatched, she said, but Bear was gone. She went home and hoped for the best. “I told him, ‘Bear went swimming,’” she said, thinking she would have to find a new dog for Zack. “The old goldfish switch,” she said.
She posted a missing-dog message on Facebook; the website Ilovetheupperwestside.com wrote about Bear’s disappearance. Days passed.
Chief Joseph Chevalier of the Edgewater Fire Department said someone at Independence Harbor, a riverfront apartment complex, called the police about a dog in distress around 1 a.m. Tuesday. He said a boat went out. “The tide was low, and it was difficult trying to get where we were trying to get,” he said. Some divers went under a pier. “They saw the dog,” he said, “but the dog kept running. It was scared, obviously.”
They waited, and as the tide rose, two firefighters in wet suits went under the pier again. They pulled Bear into the boat, though “he was trying to get on the boat himself, from what my guys were telling me.”
They turned Bear over to the police, who took him to an animal hospital to be checked out. He did not have his collar, but he had a microchip that led to a breeder who, in turn, contacted Wolpin. “We got him a bath,” she said, “so he no longer smells like the Hudson.”
One question remained, and it’s a groaner: Did Bear the dog dog-paddle his way to New Jersey?
Who knows, Chevalier said. “He swam over,” Chevalier said, “or the tide took him over.”
I was chatting with my German teacher after a class at the Goethe Institute on a chilly November evening. We were both hungry, so we decided to get chicken sandwiches at a halal food truck near Union Square Park.
The park was mostly deserted, but we decided to sit there and eat anyway. Being two women alone at night, we chose a bench beneath good lighting for safety’s sake.
As we were eating, a man approached us.
“Can I ask you something?” he said.
We were hesitant but said, sure, go ahead.
“Can you tell me the name on that bench?” he asked.
Looking at the plaque, we read off the name: Richard Helm.
The man held out his driver’s license and asked that we read the name on it: Richard Helm!
He told us it was his bench and that he sat there every morning drinking his coffee. His brother had arranged for the plaque.
“I walked by, and the whole park was empty, and you chose to sit on my bench!” he said.
He seemed amazed at having been so chosen. We told him it had good light.
He handed us each $2, told us to buy a coffee with it and walked off.
We finished our sandwiches and headed off as well, with two more dollars apiece.
— Colleen Alkalay-Houlihan
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Morgan Malget, Kirsten Noyes and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].