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Who is Juan Merchan, the Judge Overseeing Trump’s Arraignment

Former President Trump is set to be arraigned on Tuesday afternoon at a Manhattan courthouse in what will be one of the most closely watched legal proceedings in legal memory.

A grand jury voted last week to indict Trump on criminal charges for his role in organizing hush money payments made to an adult film star during his 2016 campaign. Presiding over the case is Judge Juan Merchan, who has already drawn Trump’s ire.

Here’s what to know about the judge.

Who is Juan Merchan?

Merchan has spent years working in the New York City court system. He worked as an assistant attorney general in-charge in Nassau County and Suffolk County in the early 2000s, and was appointed by then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2006 to be a judge in the Bronx family court.

Since 2009, Merchan has served as an acting justice on the State Supreme Court, presiding over felony criminal trials.

The New York Times reported that Merchan is a first-generation immigrant who came to the U.S. with his family from Colombia when he was a child, growing up in Queens. The outlet noted he previously worked as an auditor for a small real estate development company.

Merchan has presided over other high-profile cases in New York City: one involving a man who tried to call in a witness described by prosecutors as a “witch doctor” to testify that he killed his girlfriend while under the influence of evil spirits, and another involving a woman accused of running a high-end prostitution ring that tabloids dubbed the “soccer mom madam.”

Merchan presided over Trump Organization proceedings

Perhaps the most notable case Merchan previously oversaw as it relates to this week’s proceedings is the criminal tax fraud trial against the Trump Organization.

The company was fined $1.6 million after being convicted on 17 counts, including falsifying business records, after prosecutors laid out a scheme in which the organization’s top officials dodged income taxes on off-the-books perks.

A fine was the only penalty Merchan could impose in the case, and $1.6 million was the maximum amount allowed by law.

Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in jail as part of a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office in the case.

Trump has claimed Merchan is biased against him

The former president has in recent days repeatedly attacked the judge, citing Merchan’s handling of the Trump Organization proceedings.

Trump has posted multiple times about Merchan on his Truth Social platform, referring to him in recent days as a “Trump Hating Judge,” and claiming Merchan “HATES ME.”

Trump pointed to Merchan’s involvement in the trial for the Trump Organization, and he claimed Merchan “strong armed” Weisselberg, though the former CFO reached his plea deal via negotiations between his lawyers and prosecutors, not the judge.

Attacking a judge is not a new strategy for Trump, who has previously lambasted the judge who oversaw the Paul Manafort case, derided some jurists who ruled against him as “Obama judges” and suggested a judge may be biased against him because of their Mexican heritage.

Trump’s lawyers have said they have no concerns

It is possible Trump’s legal team could ask for a change of judge, but his attorneys have downplayed any potential qualms ahead of Tuesday’s arraignment.

“No, I don’t believe the judge is biased. I mean, the president is entitled to his own option,” Joe Tacopina, the lawyer representing Trump in the hush money case, said Sunday on “This Week.”

“And what he’s been through, quite frankly, I don’t blame him for feeling the way he feels,” Tacopina added. “You’re asking me my opinion. Do I think the judge is biased. Of course not. How could I subscribe to that when I’ve had no interactions with this judge that would lead me to believe he’s biased.”

Timothy Parlatore, who is representing Trump in Justice Department investigations into his handling of classified documents and his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the Capitol, told CNN last week that he did not agree that the judge “hates” Trump.

In that same interview, Parlatore seemed to question whether Tacopina was the right lawyer to lead Trump’s defense in the hush money case.

“I know that Joe has certain potential conflict issues, given his prior contacts, with Stormy Daniels,” Parlatore said. “So, who’s the right attorney, to take it to trial, is something that the client will have to decide.”

READ 22 COMMENTS
  • Old Man says:

    The entire NY judicial system, particularly the New York Supreme Court, is biased against the right, especially against President Trump.

  • RD says:

    Scary!!! Trump’s attorneys are not concerned with this corrupt Colombian judge?

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