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Man into ‘conspiracy theories’ attempts self-immolation as Trump trial was winding down 1st phase (Lead)

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New York, April 20 (IANS) A man attempted self-immolation outside the courthouse as the first phase (selection of jurors) was concluding in the trial of former President Donald Trump.

New York, April 20 (IANS) A man attempted self-immolation outside the courthouse as the first phase (selection of jurors) was concluding in the trial of former President Donald Trump.

The man, deeply entrenched in conspiracy theories, set himself on fire on Friday. However, the flames were extinguished, and he was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition, according to New York Police Department Chief James Maddrey.

The man does not appear to sympathise with either side in the trial. Bizarrely, he claimed in a poster he carried earlier: “Trump is with (President Joe) Biden and they’re about to fascist coup us.”

Trump’s trial continued undisturbed on its fourth day in the Manhattan courthouse, where a full panel of 12 jurors and six alternate jurors were selected, completing the first phase and setting the stage for testimonies and arguments to begin next week.

As the first former President to be tried on criminal charges, Trump is accused of manipulating his company’s business accounts to hide payments before the 2016 election campaign, intended to silence porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with him.

He faces a total of 34 charges relating to the alleged violation of state laws concerning bookkeeping and could be sentenced to prison.

With the presidential election campaign heating up, Trump, having secured the Republican Party nomination, will be occupied as a criminal defendant four days a week in the courtroom for several weeks, while Democrat Biden will be campaigning around the country.

The charges against him were brought by Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg, a Democrat who won the position in a partisan election, defeating his Republican rival.

Under New York criminal trial procedures, the 12 jurors will deliver the verdict, with the judge acting as a referee, setting ground rules and ensuring that prosecution and defence lawyers act properly, and that evidence, arguments, and the conduct of the defendant and witnesses meet legal standards in an attempt at fairness.

To assemble the final jury panel, prosecution and defence lawyers considered over a hundred citizens from various walks of life, with Judge Juan Merchan having the final say.

Those called for the jury selection process answered a questionnaire with 42 questions covering their personal life, political activities, and even the news media they follow before being questioned by lawyers to assess their impartiality.

Merchan ordered the jury to remain anonymous to shield them from harassment or pressure and cautioned the media against revealing identifying details.

Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny, who identified the man as Maxwell Azzarello, 37, said: “A little bit of a conspiracy theory going on here.”

The pamphlets he had “seem to be propaganda-based, almost like a conspiracy theory type of pamphlet,” Kenny said.

Some information was about Ponzi (financial fraud) schemes, and others claimed local educational institutes were fronts for the mob, he said.

Maddrey said that Azzarello threw some pamphlets before pouring a liquid fire accelerant and setting himself on fire, falling onto a police barrier.

Members of the public, court officers, and police rushed towards him and tried to extinguish the fire with their coats and fire extinguishers before the fire department arrived.

Three police officers and one court officer were injured but not seriously.

Azzarello had sent letters to some media outlets claiming to be a “researcher” who uncovered what “sounds like fantastical conspiracy theory, but they are not” and is the “scariest and stupidest story in world history.”

He has a history of arrests for disruptive behaviour and criminal mischief in Florida, and according to the New York Post, he claimed in a Facebook post that he had spent time in a psychiatric ward.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at and followed at @arulouis)


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