Lawyers want Trump's fraud trial postponed

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio, on March 12, 2016.
US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Dayton International Airport in Dayton, Ohio, on March 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • Lawyers for Republican front runner Donald Trump and for students who claimed his defunct namesake school was a fraud have asked for a postponement of trial till after the presidential election.

Attorneys for both sides told a San Diego federal judge that a trial planned for August would probably need to be postponed until after the November election. They cited the difficulty of picking a jury unaffected by campaign rhetoric.

"This is a high-profile case," said Mr Trump's lawyer Daniel Petrocelli. "This will be a zoo if it goes to trial. I'm going to have a lot more to say if Mr Trump is the nominee of his party."

Mr Trump and his now defunct Trump School face two class-action lawsuits in San Diego brought by former students, as well as a fraud case brought by New York Attorney-General Eric Schneiderman.

The school is accused in all three lawsuits of misleading students into paying as much as US$35,000 (S$48,000) for real estate seminars.

POTENTIAL COMPLICATIONS

This is a high-profile case. This will be a zoo if it goes to trial. I'm going to have a lot more to say if Mr Trump is the nominee of his party.

MR TRUMP'S LAWYER DANIEL PETROCELLI, on the need to postpone his fraud trial till after the presidential election.

Mr Schneiderman alleged that Mr Trump swindled students out of US$40 million, saying the purported experts "handpicked" by the real estate mogul were not selected by him. Some did not have any background in the industry or had recently sought bankruptcy because of their real estate investing failures, said Mr Schneiderman, who accused Mr Trump of running an unlicensed educational institution.

District Judge Gonzalo Curiel is also considering whether to allow one of four named plaintiffs in the class action to drop out. Last month, former student Tarla Makaeff asked to be dismissed from the lawsuit, saying she had been traumatised by Mr Trump's hardball tactics during six years of litigation. But his lawyers said her withdrawal would be unfair since they had built their defence based on her statements.

During an interview on Fox News, Mr Trump defended his school, saying: "I handpicked top people, and the people, I think, did a good job and they ran a good school."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Lawyers want Trump's fraud trial postponed'. Print Edition | Subscribe