Acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan will preside over the hush money prosecution of former President Donald Trump despite his history of rulings against the businessman-turned-politician’s associates.
The former commander-in-chief will surrender in New York City for an arraignment on Tuesday afternoon amid legal proceedings over alleged hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election cycle. Many critics have characterized the case as politically motivated since Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has garnered a reputation for being soft on crime with respect to violent offenses.
Trump contended last week that Merchan was “hand picked” by Bragg to preside over the case and said that Merchan “hates” him in a post to his social media platform Truth Social. Another all-caps post to Truth Social on Tuesday morning asserted that Merchan is “highly partisan” and contended that his family is composed of “well known Trump haters.”
Merchan, a Colombian-born immigrant who moved to the United States as a 6-year-old, earned a law degree from Hofstra University in 1994, according to a report from the Associated Press. He served in the state attorney general’s office before his 2006 appointment by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a family court judge. Merchan has worked as an acting justice on the New York Supreme Court since 2009.
Merchan ruled against the Trump Organization earlier this year, finding the real estate conglomerate guilty of 17 charges related to a years-long tax evasion scheme under which the firm distributed various gifts and perks to executives. He imposed a $1.6 million fine, the legal maximum, against the company.
The former chief financial officer of the company, Allen Weisselberg, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors and testified against the company during the trial. Merchan sentenced the 75-year-old to five months in prison, a sentence he is currently serving, after he pleaded guilty to 15 criminal charges at the end of last year. “I believe that a stiffer sentence would be appropriate, having heard the evidence,” Merchan remarked, according to a report from POLITICO.
Trump himself will reportedly be charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, all of which are the lowest-level felonies in the state but each of which carries as many as four years in prison per charge. Merchan issued a ruling that denied a request by a coalition of news outlets for video coverage, but he will allow photographers to take still photos of the 76-year-old Trump before the Tuesday arraignment begins.
Merchan could also impose a gag order on Trump, which would limit the former commander-in-chief and current 2024 presidential contender from discussing the details of the controversial case. Trump plans to deliver a speech about the arraignment on Tuesday night.
Trump has likewise accused Bragg of “prosecutorial misconduct” and called him an “animal.” He also called attention to the funds leftist billionaire George Soros donated to multiple advocacy groups that supported Bragg’s candidacy. Soros, who has previously boasted about his efforts to bankroll the campaigns of progressive district attorneys, denied last week that he has any connection with Bragg.
Trump faces additional legal jeopardy in three other criminal proceedings, including a federal investigation into his efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election, an investigation in Georgia related to alleged meddling in the 2020 election, and another federal investigation into his handling of government records after leaving office.