Former President Donald Trump is set to appear at a court in Manhattan on April 4 for his arraignment in a historic case that will make him the first former president ever to stand before a judge to answer for criminal charges.
While specific charges against the 2024 Republican presidential candidate remain under seal, they are believed to be related to his involvement in the $130,000 alleged hush money payment to adult entertainment actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign, which was allegedly illegally classified, in violation of federal campaign finance laws
Trump’s arraignment hearing is set to begin at 2:15 p.m. ET and charges are expected to be revealed during this indictment. Trump denies wrongdoing and his lawyers have said he will enter a plea of not guilty.
The former president is set to arrive back at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, at 8:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday following his court appearance, where he will deliver a speech.
Presiding over the historic case is Judge Juan Merchan, a Colombian-born 60-year-old judge who has spent more than 15 years on the bench and has experience in numerous high-profile prosecutions—including those against associates of Trump.
Here’s What We Know About the Judge
Merchan emigrated to the United States when he was 6 years old and grew up in New York City’s borough of Queens, according to multiple reports. He was the first member of his family to go to college, attending Baruch College and graduating in 1990 before going on to earn a law degree from Hofstra University School of Law in 1994.
He began his legal career in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office before then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed him as a family court judge in 2006.
Since 2009, Merchan has served as an acting justice on the State Supreme Court, presiding over felony criminal trials, according to the New York Law Journal.
What High-Profile Cases Has Merchan Presided Over?
Merchan has presided over multiple high-profile cases, including the 2012 case of the so-called “Soccer Mom Madam” Anna Gristina, a suburban mother who was accused of running a high-end brothel out of her Manhattan apartment and eventually pleaded guilty.
However, Gristina sued Merchan in 2021 to unseal records in her case as part of an effort to vacate her record. Her case was dismissed, according to court records.
The New York judge also oversaw the 2013 case of skydivers who were convicted of misdemeanors after filming themselves jumping from 1 World Trade Center tower while it was under construction.
Merchan sentenced them to community service, saying they had made a “very, very poor decision” to execute a base jump off the building and “sullied the memories” of those who jumped on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
While those cases placed Merchan under the spotlight, recent years have seen him work on multiple cases regarding Trump.
Merchan and the Trump Organization
In 2022 Merchan oversaw a criminal trial of two of Trump’s companies—the Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corp.— that ended with the real estate company convicted by a jury of tax fraud and fined $1.61 million.
While Trump himself wasn’t charged in the case, one of the Trump organization’s longtime executives, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty, taking full responsibility for the crimes, and telling jurors from the witness stand at the time that, “It was my own personal greed that led to this.”
Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in jail in exchange for agreeing to testify against the company. Trump has said the case was politically motivated.
Nicholas Gravante, who represented Weisselberg in the plea negotiations, said Merchan was “a real listener, well-prepared, always accessible, and a man who kept his word.”
“He was mindful of the role my colleagues and I played as advocates, treating us with the utmost respect both in open court and behind closed doors,” Gravante added.
Other Cases Related to Trump
Merchan is also presiding over a criminal case involving former Trump administration strategist and White House adviser Steve Bannon. In September, Bannon pleaded not guilty to New York state charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud related to a nonprofit that raised funds for the “We Build the Wall” effort, which would create a privately owned section of the U.S.–Mexico border wall.
Prosecutors have accused Bannon of defrauding donors who contributed more than $15 million to the effort. Bannon, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted, has dismissed the case as “nonsense.”
Trump’s Criticism of Merchan
Trump has repeatedly criticized Merchan in the lead up to his arraignment, writing in a post on Truth Social on March 31 that the judge assigned to his “witch hunt” case “hates me.”
“His name is Juan Manuel Marchan, was hand-picked by Bragg & the Prosecutors, & is the same person who ‘railroaded’ my 75-year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a ‘plea’ deal (Plead GUILTY, even if you are not, 90 DAYS, fight us in Court, 10 years (life!) in jail,” Trump wrote.
“He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t ‘plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING!” the former president added.
Despite Trump’s criticism of Marchan, lawyers for the former president have said they do not believe him to be biased.
Speaking on Sunday to ABC’s “This Week,” Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said that his client is “entitled to his own option” and has been the “victim of political persecution.”
“And what he’s been through, quite frankly, I don’t blame him for feeling the way he feels … 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,” Tacopina added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times