On Tuesday afternoon, former U.S. President Donald J. Trump was arraigned by a court in his birthplace of New York City. The president was charged on 34 counts of allegedly falsifying business records, to which he pled not guilty.
Last week, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump on charges concerning hush money payments related to an alleged affair with pornographic performer Stormy Daniels. Trump, who has maintained that he is “completely innocent,” is the first former president to ever have criminal charges brought against him.
A few days ago, CatholicVote’s CEO Brian Burch sat for an exclusive interview with LOOPCast co-host Erika Ahern and weighed in on the indictment and its implications for Catholics. You can watch the interview here or read the transcript here.
Now, as the impending historic trial begins to take shape, several major players have emerged. Here is a list of who’s who in the upcoming trial.
Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, has served as the District Attorney of New York County, which is coterminous with the Borough of Manhattan, since since January 1, 2022. He was elected to the office in November 2021 after winning a competitive primary, running as a “progressive” candidate backed in part by leftist billionaire George Soros. During the campaign, Bragg emphasized his “tough-on-Trump” credentials, citing his involvement in previous civil cases against the president.
Bragg inherited the Manhattan DA office’s investigation into the Trump-Stormy Daniels allegations from his predecessor Cyrus Vance, also a Democrat. Prior to becoming Manhattan’s chief prosecutor, Bragg, a Harlem native, was an assistant U.S. Attorney, the Chief Deputy Attorney General of New York state, and a lawyer specializing in civil rights and white-collar financial crimes. He graduated from Harvard Law School.
One of Trump’s defense attorneys is Joe Tacopina, a prominent lawyer hailing from Brooklyn. He has a history of defending New York’s most famous celebrities, including Jay-Z and Alex Rodriguez. Tacopina earned his law degree from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, the state in which he currently resides. Throughout his career, he has earned a reputation as a well-respected New York City lawyer and has made numerous media appearances, especially in the wake of the Trump indictment. In addition to his legal career, Tacopina has an interest in hockey and soccer and has served as a sports agent and investor.
Like Tacopina, Necheles is a Brooklyn lawyer on Trump’s defense team. Notably, she has worked on cases involving the Mafia and the infamous cult NXIVM. Necheles has worked with the president in the past and defended the Trump Organization in a civil trial last year. She has been described as the more cerebral and detail-oriented of the pair of lawyers at the forefront of the defense, balancing out the brash and media-savvy Tacopina. Necheles graduated from Yale Law School.
Blanche, who is known for specializing in white-collar cases, is a last-minute addition to Trump’s team, hired Monday – only a day before the arraignment. Among Blanche’s notable former clients is Paul Manafort, one of Trump’s campaign managers in 2016. Although some initially thought Blanche’s hire was a sign that Tacopina was being “sidelined,” his joining the team was instead described as an opportunity to add “additional firepower” to such an unprecedented trial. Blanche, who resigned from a large New York law firm to defend the president, graduated from Brooklyn Law School.
Merchan, who is the judge assigned to the case, is an Acting Justice of the criminal division of the New York County Supreme Court in the First Judicial District of New York. A former family court judge, he has served on the bench for 16 years, having been appointed by former New York City mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg. Merchan is an immigrant from Colombia and graduated from Hofstra University. The judge has been involved in cases against Trump in the past, and due to this, the president stated on his social media platform Truth Socia that Merchan “HATES ME.” It was reported on Tuesday that Merchan’s daughter is an active Democratic political operative, and worked on then-candidate Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.