Donald Trump trial updates: Man sets himself on fire at Manhattan courthouse

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Editor's note: This file recaps the news from Donald Trump's criminal trial on Friday, April 19. For the latest news from Trump's hush money trial, please read our live updates for Thursday, April 25.

NEW YORK — A man threw conspiracy pamphlets into the air and set himself on fire Friday outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump's hush money trial is taking place, critically injuring himself and horrifying onlookers.

Police identified him as Max Azzarello, 37, of Florida. The victim was seen dousing himself with a liquid around 1:35 p.m. in a park across the street from the Manhattan courthouse, witnesses told USA TODAY.

The shocking incident took place in full view of news cameras shortly after a full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was seated for his hush money trial. Witnesses said the victim tossed the flyers into the air before dousing himself and setting himself ablaze with what appeared to be a lighter. Six first responders suffered minor injuries trying to put out the fire and provide medical attention, the New York City Fire Department said.

Keep up with USA TODAY's live updates from inside and outside the Manhattan courthouse:

Trump trial live updates: Day 7 could bring cross-examination of Pecker, gag order ruling

Manifesto shows Max Azzarello was mired in conspiracy theories before setting himself on fire outside Trump trial

Fire extinguishers are left behind at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York after a man set himself on fire during the trial of former President Donald Trump.
Fire extinguishers are left behind at the park across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York after a man set himself on fire during the trial of former President Donald Trump.

In a post on a Substack newsletter called "The Ponzi Papers," Max Azzarello said he had burned himself alive to draw attention to the U.S. political and economic system.

"My name is Max Azzarello, and I am an investigative researcher who has set himself on fire outside of the Trump trial in Manhattan," the post says.

Azzarello's manifesto took aim at Trump, President Joe Biden, cryptocurrency, and the federal government.

"To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you," he wrote.

Witness saw it coming: 'I'm going to see something bad here'

A bystander who asked to be identified by only his first name, Dave, told USA TODAY he watched the victim's actions with a growing sense of panic before the man went up in flames.

"I heard this clap, and this fellow was throwing these papers into the air," the 73-year-old Manhattan resident said. "He had a can and he poured fluid all over himself, at which point I thought, 'Oof, I'm going to see something bad here.'"

"And sure enough, he pulled out a lighter. And he set himself on fire."

New York police guard the site across from Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City after a man reportedly set himself on fire during the trial of former President Donald Trump, in New York City on April 19, 2024. A man set himself on fire Friday outside the court, New York police said, with officers rushing to extinguish the flames. TV reporters described the scene that unfolded moments after the full panel of 12 jurors and six alternates was selected for the trial of the former president in a hush money cover-up case.

One person blasted the burning man with a fire extinguisher as a New York emergency medical technician joined the fray.

By the time the flames were doused, "his face was completely black," another witness, Julie Berman, told reporters.

−Aysha Bagchi

'Don't interrupt me,' judge scolds Trump lawyer. 'Have a seat'

With court back in session, Judge Merchan arrived and the prosecution raised an issue about restricting access to information tied to Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer and a potentially key witness in the case. Merchan engaged in a back-and-forth with Trump lawyer Emil Bove when the judge scolded the lawyer.

"Don't interrupt me," Merchan said. "I'm not interrupting you," Bove shot back. "You are. Have a seat," Merchan instructed.

New York Supreme Court Justice Marsha Michael denied a request Friday from Trump’s attorneys to halt the criminal trial. Another motion to move the case out of Manhattan is still pending.

Opening statements in Trump’s trial are slated to begin Monday morning.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump: Judicial system in New York 'an outrage'

If Donald Trump testifies at his New York hush money trial, prosecutors want to introduce evidence about other his other legal disputes. Trump harshly criticized judges in other cases as he left the criminal trial.

New York Judge Arthur Engoron ordered Trump to pay $454 million in a civil fraud trial for exaggerating the value of his real estate. Trump is appealing.

“Engoron is a whack job,” Trump said. “What he did was a disgrace.”

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan presided over a trial where columnist E. Jean Carroll won $83 million in a defamation lawsuit for denying that he assaulted her in a department story changing room in the 1990s. Trump appealed that verdict, too.

“I had no idea who this person was,” Trump said of Carroll.

“What’s happening with the judicial system is an outrage,” Trump added.

Judge Juan Merchan, who is presiding over the criminal trial, said he would rule Monday on what additional evidence prosecutors can introduce if Trump testifies.

Bart Jansen

Trump's historic trial now has a full slate of 12 jurors and 6 alternates

The chosen alternate jurors have been were sworn in after two more were chosen.

They swore to try the case "in a fair and impartial manner." Judge Merchan told the jurors he expects to begin the trial proceedings on Monday. He advised them proceedings will end at 2 p.m. ET on Monday and Tuesday and will run through lunch on those days.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump legal team opposed information from E. Jean Carroll trials

The Trump "Sandoval hearing" this afternoon is going into whether the prosecution can introduce multiple negative outcomes for Trump from past legal cases to undermine his credibility if he chooses to testify in his New York criminal case.

Those negative outcomes include Trump's losses in two civil cases against New York writer E. Jean Carroll, where Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming her. The former president was ordered to pay her $88.3 million in damages.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove argued that bringing in information from the Carroll trials is inappropriate because it "pushes the salaciousness" onto another level.

Merchan asked why not just keep out the allegations and just allow the findings in the cases to be introduced in the trial. Bove said that would still allow for inappropriate evidence.

– Aysha Bagchi

'Egomaniacal' and 'the devil': Another potential alternate struck by judge

Another potential alternate juror was struck for impartiality concerns after the defense brought social media posts to the judge's attention that they believed were from an account belonging to the man.

On questioning, the potential juror didn't recall making certain posts he was shown (which were not shown to reporters). Some posts included descriptions of Trump as "egomaniacal" and "the devil."

Asked by Judge Merchan if the man believed Trump is the devil, the man replied: "At that time, yeah, I may have felt that."

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge advises Trump defense to stop flooding court with filings

Judge Juan Merchan is addressing additional issues with prosecutors and Trump's defense team after wrapping up the Sandoval hearing." Merchan advised Trump's defense that they need to accept his rulings at a certain point. He complained that the defense was targeting individual court decisions "one by one by one" and submitting filings challenging them.

– Aysha Bagchi

Social media comes back to haunt yet another potential juror

Defense attorney Susan Necheles asked Judge Merchan to strike another potential alternate based social media posts she showed to the judge (the posts weren't shown to reporters).

After bringing the man in for questioning, Merchan said he found the prospective juror credible − adding that he didn't know that the sentiments in the posts were anti-Trump. But Merchan said he was concerned that one of the photographs that was featured included text describing "a massive anti-Trump rally."

Too many people have worked too hard to get the case this far, Merchan said. "I'm going to grant the challenge for cause."

– Aysha Bagchi

More: How Donald Trump's hush money trial team is using social media to weed out New York jurors

Third and fourth alternate jurors chosen

Two more alternate jurors have been chosen, making four alternates at this point. One is a man who is an audio professional. He earlier said he believed Trump is being treated fairly. The other is a woman who is active in a school parents' association.

– Aysha Bagchi

Dismissed juror number 4 speaks out: 'I feel sorry for the other jurors'

USA TODAY Network had an exclusive interview Thursday with Herson Cabreras, who was chosen for the jury on Tuesday but kicked off two days later, after the prosecution raised questions about whether he accurately described his background.

The kerfuffle over his jury service arose after prosecutors raised the issue of a 1991 incident in which Cabreras and an associate were accused of tearing down political campaign signs in Harrison, New York.

"I feel sorry for the other jurors," he said, expressing concern about other jurors potentially being dragged into the center of a fiercely contested legal battle.

-Asher Stockler

Judge strikes Women's March attendee from alternate juror contention

Judge Merchan struck a potential alternate juror based on impartiality concerns.

"I don't believe she's being disingenuous. I do believe that she's credible," Merchan said. However, leaning on the side of caution and "looking at her answers as a whole," he said he thought the safer course is to grant the defense's challenge for cause.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump team trying to get woman who attended Women's March struck by judge

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles is arguing that a woman who attended the Women's March protest after Trump's presidential election should be struck by the judge based on impartiality concerns. Necheles said the potential juror made statements such as that Trump enabled racist and homophobic comments.

The potential alternate said earlier she didn't know what Trump's rhetoric is, but she is familiar with people who made homophobic and racist comments and cited Trump.

The potential alternate has been brought in for additional questioning. She echoed her previous comments, but also told the judge she can be fair and impartial.

– Aysha Bagchi

Second alternate juror chosen

A second alternate juror, a woman who said she doesn't watch news, was chosen after neither side used a challenge to strike her. She will be the second alternate juror. The first alternate was chosen on Thursday.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump lawyer's questioning of potential jurors ends. We could have more alternates soon

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles' questioning of potential alternate jurors has ended. The judge has given the lawyers some time to confer and review their notes before they will go through any challenges they have to the alternate juror candidates.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential juror says his opinion on Trump is neutral, leaning hostile

Pressed by Trump lawyer Susan Necheles about his opinion on Trump, a potential juror said he likes Trump's tax policy, but doesn't like where the Republican Party is when it comes to women's rights over their bodies. The man said his opinion on Trump is neutral, leaning hostile.

– Aysha Bagchi

Alternate juror candidate says Trump's base 'can feel enabled by his rhetoric'

A potential juror who attended the Women's March protest after Trump's presidential election said Trump's base can sometimes "feel enabled by his rhetoric." But she also said she didn't know what his rhetoric is. She said she was familiar with people who made homophobic and racist comments and cited President Trump.

Necheles asked if the potential juror would hold Trump responsible for that, and the woman said no. She said she thought of it as an issue at the ballot box, not in the court room.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential juror questioned about attending Women's March

Trump defense attorney Susan Necheles asked a potential juror about having attended the Women's March protest after Trump was elected president in 2016. Asked if there was strong anger toward Trump, the potential juror said she remembered the event as being about women's solidarity.

– Aysha Bagchi

Another potential juror is excused after saying she was feeling anxiety

A woman being considered for the remaining alternate juror spots spoke up as questioning continued between potential jurors and Trump lawyer Susan Necheles. She said she has started to feel anxiety and asked to approach the judge's bench. After a brief private conversation, Judge Merchan announced she was excused.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles begins questioning potential jurors

Trump defense lawyer Susan Necheles has begun questioning the potential alternate jurors.

"Biases color the way that we look at the world," she tells them. She asks them to continue to do the best they can "to really be honest."

– Aysha Bagchi

Hoffinger asking potential jurors about issue that may tie to Michael Cohen

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger is asking potential jurors how they would feel about the testimony of someone who has pleaded guilty to a crime in the past. Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is a potential witness in the case and has pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including lying to Congress.

Everyone said they would keep an open mind.

– Aysha Bagchi

Woman who said father is a lifelong Chris Christie friend gets emotional, is excused from jury duty

A prospective juror who earlier in the day said her father is a lifelong friend of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a one-time Trump ally who broke publicly with Trump after the former president refused to accept the 2020 election results and ran against him in the 2024 Republican primaries – has now been excused.

During individualized questioning by prosecutor Susan Hoffinger, the potential juror suddenly said she thought she "could do this," but it is more stressful than she expected. The woman was emotional, her voice cracking as she spoke.

The judge held a private conversation at his bench, and then stated the woman is excused.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential juror disqualified. 'Good luck,' she said as she left

A potential juror who earlier described having a criminal history and doubted she was allowed to serve as a juror has now been formally disqualified. The woman was the 21st potential juror to speak today, and she spoke emotionally about having been incarcerated, at one point mentioning some charges related to drugs. The judge still had her respond to the full jury questionnaire.

The woman said she is a firm believer that when people do something they should be accountable for their actions. In response to one question about following the judge's instructions on the law, she said, "I promise to follow your instructions, sir."

After the break, the judge said the woman was disqualified because she needs a particular certificate to be able to serve. He added that, depending on the nature of her charges, she may be able to serve in the future

"Okay, thank you," the woman said as the judge dismissed her. "Good luck," she added. It wasn't clear to whom she directed that last comment.

– Aysha Bagchi

Court proceedings resume

Court proceedings resumed around 11:37 a.m. ET.

– Aysha Bagchi

Court takes 10-minute break

The judge announced a 10-minute break. The potential jurors who spoke today and weren't excused still need to be directly questioned by attorneys for the prosecution and defense. Trump was especially attentive yesterday as potential jurors responded to his lawyer's questioning about their opinions of him.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential juror participated in Women's March

We are nearing the end of this batch of potential alternate jurors responding to the jury questionnaire. The current potential juror speaking was born in India and grew up in Minnesota. She said she participated in the Women's March, a protest after Trump was elected president in 2016.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential juror's father is lifelong friend of Chris Christie

The 17th potential juror to speak today said her father is a lifelong friend of former Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie was a strong supporter of Trump during the 2016 general election and most of Trump's presidency, but he broke with Trump after Trump refused to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Aysha Bagchi

14th potential juror volunteered for Clinton campaign

The 14th potential juror to speak today may not be someone the Trump legal team wants as an alternate. He said he volunteered for the Clinton campaign. That appears to be the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. The juror questionnaire asks if the jury candidates have ever attended a campaign event for any anti-Trump group or organization.

The man said he gets his news from The New York Times. He doesn't watch much TV, but his television news would be from MSNBC, he said.

– Aysha Bagchi

Third potential alternate juror excused over impartiality concerns

A third potential juror was excused at the get-go of her time to speak today. She said after reading the 42 questions on the jury questionnaire yesterday, she doesn't think she can be impartial. Judge Merchan released her.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump awake, alert again for past several potential jurors

After appearing to be sleepy and struggling to stay awake as potential jurors responded to the jury questionnaire earlier this morning, Trump has been fully awake through the past several potential jurors speaking.

We are on the eleventh potential juror to speak this morning.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump Media stock price

At open on Thursday April 19, Trump Media & Technology Group Corp's share price rose to $36.95, up 11.33% from Wednesday April 18's close.

Kinsey Crowley

Another potential juror says she doesn't think she can be impartial

A woman was excused after she said, upon learning of the questions posed to potential jurors, she doesn't think she can be impartial.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump continues to appear sleepy

Trump's eyes have often been closed for extended periods – dozens of seconds at a time – as the third potential juror to respond to the jury questionnaire this morning is speaking.

At one point, his mouth went agape for seconds as his eyes were closed. He just opened his eyes as the jury candidate said she might have read his book, "Trump: The Art of the Deal," when she was younger.

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump appears sleepy

Trump's eyes have been closed almost entirely for more than two minutes as the second potential juror to be questioned this morning is speaking.

His head dropped down at least three times before he lifted it back up. After the third time, he opened his eyes and said something to his lawyer, Emil Bove. He is now looking around.

– Aysha Bagchi

First potential alternate juror excused

The first potential juror to be questioned this morning was quickly excused. She raised at the get-go her anxiety about participating in the trial. She said she worried people in her life would figure out she was on the jury over time, even without her telling them, and that could prevent her from being fair and impartial.

Judge Merchan excused her.

– Aysha Bagchi

Potential jurors arrive and receive questionnaire

The potential alternate jurors who will be questioned to start off the morning have arrived and been passed a copy of the 42-question jury questionnaire.

– Aysha Bagchi

Judge Juan Merchan arrives

Judge Juan Merchan just arrived. One lawyer from each side introduced those at their table, including Trump. The judge said generally, "Good morning," and continued his common practice of greeting Trump directly: "Good morning, Mr. Trump."

– Aysha Bagchi

Trump enters the courtroom

Former President Donald Trump just entered the courtroom and took a seat at the defense table in between defense lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove. Prosecutors are also seated at their table in the courtroom.

– Aysha Bagchi

What is Trump on trial for?

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges that he falsified business records to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that was designed to unlawfully interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The payment was made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and violated federal campaign finance laws, according to prosecutors. They say Trump authorized the payment to help his presidential campaign, and falsified records to cover up the checks he sent to reimburse Cohen for the hush money.

Aysha Bagchi

Who are Donald Trump's lawyers?

Trump's defense team is led by Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles.

Blanche was a federal prosecutor for nine years in the Southern District of New York, which includes Manhattan. As a prominent white-collar defense lawyer he has defended Trump advisor Boris Epshteyn and Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Necheles is ranked among the top criminal defense lawyers in New York by the legal rating and head-hunting firm Chambers and Partners. She was also a former counsel to Venero Mangano, the former Genovese crime family underboss known as Benny Eggs..

Josh Meyer

Who is Juan Merchan?

Juan Merchan is the New York judge presiding over Donald Trump's hush money trial, the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president in history.

He was appointed to a family court by Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2006 and appointed to the felony court a few years later.

Trump has repeatedly attacked Merchan, calling him biased because Merchan's daughter works for a marketing firm with Democratic politicians as clients, but an ethics committee has not found grounds to question Merchan's objectivity.

Merchan has ruled against Trump in the past when he presided over a 2022 tax-fraud trial of two parts of the Trump Organization.

So far in this trial, Merchan has imposed a gag order against Trump commenting on witnesses, court staff or prosecutors, expanded it to prohibit comments on family members of himself and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and refused Trump's request to delay the trial

Kinsey Crowley & Bart Jansen

Will the Trump trial be televised or live streamed?


New York court rules state that audio-visual coverage of trials is not permitted unless a representative of the news media submits an application and the judge allows it, which has not happened for this trial.

Kinsey Crowley & Aysha Bagchi

What is a Sandoval hearing?

The judge said he could hold a "Sandoval hearing" today. That's a hearing where the judge would consider what kind of evidence the prosecution may introduce on Trump's prior "bad acts" if he chooses to testify.

Trump said last week he plans to testify, although he also said he would testify when the defense had a chance to put on witnesses in his civil fraud trial, only to back out the day before he was scheduled to take the stand.

According to March court filings, the prosecution wants to question Trump about several legal determinations, including a civil jury's finding that Trump sexually abused New York writer E. Jean Carroll.

– Aysha Bagchi

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump trial updates: Man sets self on fire outside courthouse