At the Trump Org. trial, 3 jurors closed their eyes and appeared to briefly fall asleep during dense testimony about taxes

At the Trump Org. trial, 3 jurors closed their eyes and appeared to briefly fall asleep during dense testimony about taxes
Judge Juan Merchan presides during the Trump Organization's criminal tax trial in Manhattan Criminal Court, in New York City, on November 15, 2022, in this courtroom sketch.REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
  • Donald Trump's real-estate company is on trial on criminal tax-fraud charges in Manhattan.
  • During a morning of dense financial testimony, three jurors and one alternate closed their eyes.

The prosecution has rested. So have some of the jurors.

Jurors in the Trump Organization's ongoing criminal tax-fraud trial struggled to stay awake during dense financial testimony on Monday morning.

Three jurors and one alternate appeared to briefly lose that struggle as the morning dragged on in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan. Their eyes closed and their heads nodded forward — or, in one female juror's case, tilted backward — at points in the testimony.

The trial of Donald Trump's real-estate and golf-resort company was beginning its fifth week when the wave of drowsiness struck.

Prosecutors had called their final witness, a state tax investigator, to the stand to describe how he audited the company's former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.


The testimony kicked off with a giant blowup of a blank New York state resident tax return — the IT-201 — being projected on overhead screens.

Visual aid? Sleep aid? Hard to tell.

The witness, Mukaila Rabiu, began going line-by-line through the blank tax form, explaining each category. Things went downhill toward the land of Nod from there.

First to appear to briefly conk out was a juror in the back row, a porter for a Brooklyn-based real-estate management company. A court officer grabbed a large white pitcher and poured a glass of cold water, which was passed down for the juror to sip.

The next visual aid on the overhead was a spreadsheet titled, in block letters, "BREAKDOWN OF ADDITIONAL TAXABLE INCOME FOR TAX YEARS 2005-2017."


It showed important evidence. In 2012, for instance, Weisselberg, the trial's most important witness, admittedly dodged $47,433 in income tax, the most of any year.

But this chart, and scintillating exchanges like this one — Question: "Did you do the same analysis for each and every year in this chart?" Answer: "Yes," — shut the eyes of a few more folks in the jury box.

An alternate sitting in the front row had been taking notes. Then her head fell forward, her pen still in her hand.

Three seats to her left, a retiree, who in her waking hours likes to crochet, closed her eyes. Slowly, her head tilted back so that, had her eyes been open, she would have been looking straight at the ceiling.

"Let's turn to the utilities and garage payments," said the prosecutor, Gary Fishman, who directs the Manhattan district attorney's Crime Proceeds Strike Force.


Directly behind the retiree, the eyes of another juror, a department store custodian, began to flutter, then closed. More glasses of water were handed around.

The apparently snoozing jurors shut their eyes for no more than a minute or two at a time, and several of them seemed to summon a great effort to stay awake. The custodian appeared to be pinching his own face at one point.

At the end of the tax auditor's testimony, the prosecution, too, rested.

Testimony is expected to last through the end of November, after which jurors will be asked to decide if Trump's company must be held liable for a tax-dodge scheme that Weisselberg and the company's top payroll executive admit to running for 15 years.

Trump is not a defendant in the case, but his company, if convicted of 15 tax conspiracy and records fraud charges, would face up to $1.6 million in penalties.


Correction: Nov. 23, 2022 — An earlier version of this story misidentified a prosecutor who was conducting direct examination of a state tax investigator. The prosecutor was Gary Fishman, not Solomon Shinerock.