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Trump Org. fraud trial juror tells CNN the panel was ‘serious’ and didn’t focus on Donald Trump



New York
CNN
 — 

The jury who convicted Donald Trump’s namesake companies earlier this week was “serious” and tried to focus on the law – not the former president, one of the jurors said in an interview with CNN.

Jurors saw a “culture of fraud,” at the Trump Organization, but referred to Trump as a nondescript “Bob Smith” at times when talking about the company owner’s awareness of the crimes in relation to the charges, said the juror, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity.

The juror had a “gut feeling” about their vote going into deliberations but said the jurors agreed they needed to understand the law especially for a few jurors who were “unsure” on some counts. Before reaching a verdict, the jury sent notes asking to hear the jury charge reread for five of the counts.

There were no holdout jurors with heels dug in for the defense, according to the juror.

The group of 12 got the court’s message: Trump himself was not on trial.

They felt generally that Trump and his family probably knew about the fraud schemes but still tried to stay away from the topic because it wasn’t relevant to the charges, the juror said.

“I think the consensus is that they like most likely, they know something like they don’t know every detail, but like there’s some negligence there.”

Trump and other family members were not charged or accused of wrongdoing.

“I personally know Trump was not on trial. But actually, what’s funny, I don’t think most people in this world know that Trump’s not on trial,” the juror said. “But like everyone realizes that on the jury because it was ingrained in our head 20 times.”

The Manhattan jury found two Trump Organization companies – The Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp – guilty on all charges they faced including multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records connected to a 15-year scheme to defraud tax authorities by failing to report and pay taxes on compensation for top executives.

The group of eight men and four women deliberated for less than 10 hours across two days handing down a verdict late Tuesday afternoon.

Coworkers asked the juror about convicting Trump when he returned to work. The juror corrected them, saying they helped convict the companies.

Yet when asked about Trump’s 2024 presidential run, the juror called the prospect frightening.

“We’re a long way away from here, but it’s kind of frightening to me that he could be our president again, but who knows,” the juror said.

“He just he puts like sketchy people around him,” the juror added, reflecting on other Trump comrades like Michael Cohen and Steve Bannon. “I just find it very bizarre. ”

The juror was not convinced by the defense mantra, “Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg.”

The evidence showed a “culture of fraud” in the company that could not have been boiled down to former Trump Org. CFO Allen Weisselberg as suggested by the defense, the juror said.

The Trump Org.’s internal “clean up” of questionable business practices around the time Trump was elected president particularly struck the juror as a red flag.

“I was kind of like ‘this seems weird’ and then it confirmed that when they said in the cleanup of 2017, they stopped doing it,” the juror said. “And so I felt like that was a red flag, like the company was clearly doing something that they shouldn’t have been doing so it really sold to the point that it’s a culture of fraud in the company. So how could someone working in a company that has fraud going on from different angles be operating solely for themselves.”

The juror added: “There was no doubt that there was a crime committed here. And there, they were all over the place on the defense with passing blame.”

The defense team mirrored Trump’s style, the juror said, observing the lawyers bullying witnesses and deflecting blame.

“We knew there was a crime committed and it seemed like they were passing blame. And it seems like that’s the Donald Trump style, you know?” the juror told CNN. “And it’d be nice if I could just be a billionaire, whatever he is, and just like, hire people to do stuff for me and commit crime and shield me and get away with it.”

The juror especially called moments of defense attorney Michael van der Veen’s closing argument disrespectful.

“He was like, imitating like in a derogatory way Donald Bender during the closing statements. I thought that was disrespectful and I thought it was not necessary,” the juror said.

Overall, the juror thought Trump’s post-verdict comments about the trial were oversimplified.

“This trial went on for six weeks. There were so many things we went through. It’s not just Weisselberg’s W-2’s, you know, there was a lot of crime, things that are illegal going on there.”

Weisselberg has pleaded guilty.

The defense team posed convincing points, the juror said, but the prosecution’s evidence was too overwhelming.

“If I listened to just the defense and didn’t listen to the prosecution, yeah, I probably would have believed them. But when you go through everything, put everything together, the big picture, looking at the witnesses, like game their credibility, the actual physical evidence I saw, you know, that helps me get to the conclusion.”