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Man lights himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse

April 20, 2024

People rushed over to douse the person with a fire extinguisher at the Manhattan courthouse where Donald Trump's hush money criminal case was underway. Police said he was alive but in critical condition.

A police officer uses a fire extinguisher as emergency personnel respond to a report of a person covered in flames. New York, April 19, 2024.
The fire appeared to be located at a park opposite the 100 Center Street courthouse, an area used by authorities to hold both pro-Trump and anti-Trump protestersImage: Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

A man set himself on fire on Friday outside the Manhattan courthouse in New York where former President Donald Trump is on trial in a hush-money case.

New York Police Department Chief Jeffrey Maddrey said the man, who is from Florida in the United States, walked into the center of the park across the street from the courthouse and set himself on fire. The park is often used to hold both pro-Trump and anti-Trump protests.

An eyewitness said he threw pamphlets into the air before dousing himself with a liquid and lighting himself on fire. Police said the pamphlets appeared to be "conspiracy-based."

The man was rushed to hospital and was in a critical condition.

Police said everyone inside the trial was aware of the incident outside. They stressed there "was no security breach here at all."

Jury selection concludes

Inside the court a full jury, including alternates, was selected for Trump's trial.

The first ever criminal trial of a former US president stems from an alleged hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

It could keep him in court for weeks and complicate his bid to win back the White House in elections later this year.

The jury selection process took four days and was complicated, amid difficulty in selecting a group that would be completely objective.

Trump's legal team had tried, and failed, to delay the trial and move it out of Manhattan, arguing that a jury from the New York borough would be biased against the former president.

Another last-minute appeal arguing the jury selection had been rushed was rejected during a brief hearing on Friday, paving the way for opening statements next week. Judge Juan M. Merchan told Trump's legal team that the time had come to accept his verdicts.

"I've entertained your arguments in good faith, I've handed down decisions, but at some point, you need to accept the court's rulings," Merchan said during a Friday hearing. "There's nothing else to clarify. There's nothing else to reargue. We're going to have opening statements on Monday morning. This trial is starting."

The 12-member jury consists of seven men and five women, mostly employed in white-collar professions. The majority are not native New Yorkers, hailing from across the country and naturalized citizens from other countries, including Ireland and Lebanon.

Why is Trump on trial?

Trump is the first US president to face a criminal trial, which could last through May. He is required to attend the trial in Manhattan four days a week.

He is being tried over the accusation of covering up his former lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 (€122,000) payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford.

The money was allegedly paid to silence Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, regarding a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade earlier.

Trump has denied having the encounter with Daniels and has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

US: 'Hush money' trial against Donald Trump begins

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were falsely recorded as legal fees to hide their true purpose. Trump's lawyers say the payments were in fact legal expenses, not a cover-up.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December 2018 after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes. He is also among the witnesses expected to testify in Trump's hush-money trial.

rmt/lo (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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