Witness In Trump Trial Has Strong Ties To Region

A key witness in former President Donald Trump's criminal trial who allegedly helped bury negative stories involving him has close ties to Westchester, including a university in the county from which he graduated. 

Former President Donald Trump pictured with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (right).

Former President Donald Trump pictured with former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (right).

Photo Credit: Flickr/ruperto miller

Former media executive David Pecker, the former CEO of the National Enquirer's parent company, American Media, Inc., became the first witness to testify in Trump's criminal trial on Monday, April 22, and Tuesday, April 23, 

The 72-year-old Pecker testified that he had used "catch and kill" tactics to buy rights to stories casting Trump in a negative light and then declining to publish them, keeping them buried as a result, according to a CBS News report. 

This scheme would involve payments made to Pecker on Trump's behalf, prosecutors allege. 

Under David Pecker's leadership, the National Enquirer bought stories about Donald Trump. These stories included one about an alleged illegitimate child that Trump had with a maid from Trump Tower, and another about an alleged affair with a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal. 

The Enquirer paid $30,000 for the first story and $150,000 for the second. However, neither story was ever published, as reported by CBS News.

Pecker, a 1969 graduate of New Rochelle High School, used to work as a bookkeeper for businesses in the city during his youth. 

However, he is now facing criminal allegations related to his association with former President Donald Trump. 

As a result of these allegations, his reputation has been tarnished with his former alma mater, Pace University in Pleasantville, which had previously named a lecture hall after him.

The public revelation of Pecker's "catch and kill" tactics prompted a 2019 opinion piece in the university's newspaper, The Pace Chronicle, calling for his name to be removed from the lecture hall. 

Before transferring to Pace, Pecker also spent time at Westchester Community College in Valhalla.

Following the 2018 federal investigation into the "catch and kill" tactics, Pecker was granted witness immunity in exchange for his testimony against Trump. In 2020, he was removed as CEO of American Media, Inc., which sold the Enquirer in 2019. 

Pecker will resume his testimony when the trial continues on Thursday, April 25. 

Trump currently faces 34 counts of falsifying business records related to a $130,000 alleged "hush money" payment he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, as well as his alleged "catch and kill" payments to Pecker. 

Prosecutors allege that Trump had an affair with Daniels and had been trying to hide the payment leading up to the 2016 presidential election.   

The payment is alleged to have been made by Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who paid it through a shell corporation he set up and funded through a Manhattan bank.

 The payment was made to Daniels' lawyer just before the 2016 election at Trump's direction, according to prosecutors. 

Investigators also said Trump reimbursed Cohen for the payment through monthly checks processed by the Trump Organization and disguised as payments for legal services. 

Cohen later pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution and was sentenced to three years in federal prison in December 2018. 

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