Trump brings convicted felons to court as supporters

One was a former president of an outlaw motorcycle gang who did six years in prison on drug trafficking charges and another was a former NYPD commissioner who served more than three years for tax fraud and other charges.

Aside from time behind bars, another thing they have in common? Both men were part of Donald Trump’s courtroom entourage this week.

Chuck Zito and Bernard Kerik were among the supporters of the former president with him on Monday at his criminal trial in New York. Other supporters who have recently appeared at the trial include top GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is third in line to the Oval Office.

Zito, who helped found in the early 1980s the New York Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels before setting his sights on Hollywood, was sitting in the back row of the courtroom before lunch. Also known for his role as “Chucky The Enforcer” on the HBO prison drama “Oz,” Zito served real time on a drug charge in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

And then there was Kerik, who pleaded guilty to charges that stemmed from allegations that, while a city official, he knowingly paid on only $30,000 for renovations worth between $165,000 and $255,000.

Kerik was sentenced to four years but got out early after Trump pardoned him in 2020.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records as part of an alleged effort to keep salacious — and, he says, bogus — stories about his sex life from emerging during his 2016 campaign. On Monday, Trump called the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg a “scam” and “witch hunt.”

The charges center on $130,000 in payments that Trump’s company made to his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen. He paid that sum on Trump’s behalf to keep porn actor Stormy Daniels from going public with her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier. Trump has denied the sexual encounter ever happened.

Prosecutors say the payments to Cohen were falsely logged as legal fees. Prosecutors have described it as part of a scheme to bury damaging stories Trump feared could help his opponent in the 2016 race, particularly as Trump’s reputation was suffering at the time from comments he had made about women.

Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment and that it was designed to stop Daniels from going public about the alleged encounter. But Trump has previously said it had nothing to do with the campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Matt Arco may be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewArco.

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