Man dies after setting self on fire outside New York court where Trump trial underway


  • World
  • Friday, 19 Apr 2024

Former President Donald Trump speaks to reporters with attorney Todd Blanche at the end of the day at Manhattan criminal court as jury selection continues in New York, U.S., April 18, 2024. Jabin Botsford/Pool via REUTERS

NEW YORK (Reuters) -A man has died after setting himself on fire on Friday outside the New York courthouse where Donald Trump's historic hush-money trial was taking place as jury selection wrapped up, but officials said he did not appear to have been targeting Trump.

The man burned for several minutes in full view of television cameras that were set up outside the courthouse, where the first-ever criminal trial of a former U.S. president is being held.

An NYPD spokesperson said the man was declared dead overnight at a hospital. Officials had previously said he was in critical condition.

Witnesses said the man, who was in his 30s, pulled pamphlets from a backpack and threw them in the air before he doused himself with a liquid and set himself on fire. One of those pamphlets included references to "evil billionaires" but portions that were visible to a Reuters witness did not mention Trump.

The NYPD said the man, who they identified as Max Azzarello of St. Augustine, Florida, did not appear to be targeting Trump or others involved in the trial.

"Right now we are labeling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there," Tarik Sheppard, a deputy police commissioner, said at a news conference.

In an online manifesto, a man using that name said he set himself on fire and apologized to friends, witnesses and first responders. The post warns of "an apocalyptic fascist coup" and criticizes cryptocurrency and U.S. politicians, but does not single out Trump in particular.

A smell of smoke lingered in the plaza after the incident, according to a Reuters witness, and a police officer sprayed a fire extinguisher on the ground. A smoldering backpack and a gas can were visible.

The downtown Manhattan courthouse, heavily guarded by police, drew a throng of protesters and onlookers on Monday, the trial's first day, though crowds have since dwindled.

JURY SELECTION COMPLETED

The shocking development came shortly after jury selection for the trial was completed, clearing the way for prosecutors and defense attorneys to make opening statements on Monday in a case stemming from hush money paid to a porn star. The court adjourned later in the afternoon.

The 12 jurors, along with six alternates, will consider evidence in a first-ever trial to determine whether a former U.S. president is guilty of breaking the law. Prosecutors intend to call at least 20 witnesses, according to Trump defense lawyer Susan Necheles. Trump may testify on his own behalf, in a risky move that would open him up to cross-examination.

The jury consists of seven men and five women, mostly employed in white-collar professions: two corporate lawyers, a software engineer, a speech therapist and an English teacher. Most are not native New Yorkers, hailing from across the United States and countries including Ireland and Lebanon. The alternates, who will also hear the case, are held in reserve in case one of the jurors has to leave due to illness or some other cause.

Trump is accused of covering up a $130,000 payment his then-lawyer Michael Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says they had a decade earlier.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and denies any such encounter with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in three other criminal cases as well, but this is the only one certain to go to trial ahead of the Nov. 5 election, when the Republican politician aims to again take on Democratic President Joe Biden.

A conviction would not bar him from office.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jack Queen in New York and Andy Sullivan in Washington; Additional reporting by Cynthia Osterman; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Daniel Wallis, Jonathan Oatis and Toby Chopra)

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In World

AI’s black boxes just got a little less mysterious
US company uses AI to create virtual mannequins for hard-to-fit bodies
Cybersecurity in space: Why hacking has gone off world
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins
Despite setback, Neuralink’s first brain-implant patient stays upbeat
New cars in California could alert drivers for breaking the speed limit
Cybersecurity labelling for smart devices aims to help people choose items less likely to be hacked
EasyJet uses AI to better manage flights from new control centre
U.S. stocks close lower on hawkish FOMC minutes
Europe needs to double investments in power grids by 2050: study

Others Also Read