Man sets himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse

Man sets himself on fire outside Trump trial courthouse

NEW YORK — A person has self-immolated outside the Manhattan courthouse where former President Trump’s first criminal trial is ongoing, police confirmed to The Hill.

Max Azzarello, 37, walked into a park outside the courthouse where protests of Trump’s trial have taken place this week and threw conspiratorial pamphlets in the air before pouring an accellerant on himself and setting himself on fire, New York Police Department spokespeople said at a press conference Friday.

The incident drew a heavy emergency response. Ambulances lined the block where he set themself on fire.

(Zach Schonfeld)
(Zach Schonfeld)

Police said Azzarello, 37, traveled from Florida to New York “sometime earlier this week,” police said. They labeled him a “conspiracy theorist” and indicated that the incident was not intended to target any individual or group – including Trump or the protestors outside the courthouse.

On various social media accounts, reviewed by The Hill, Azzarello espoused conspiracy theories about the U.S. government and prominent individuals. Police acknowledged the social media posts and said the accounts will be “scrubbed.”

The man is in critical condition but alive and intubated, police said. Three NYPD officers and one court officer had minor injuries from the fire but are “all fine.”

Videos of the situation posted on the social media platform X showed at least one person attempting to pat down the fire with a suit jacket, before another individual with a fire extinguisher put out the fire.

A witness told PIX11 News they were standing next to a man when he poured a flammable liquid on himself, told her to stand back and then lit himself on fire. The witness said he made statements of a political nature before the incident.

In the same timeframe that the incident occurred, a full jury panel was officially selected to hear the case.

With 12 primary jurors and six alternates seated, the trial can move into opening remarks on Monday.

Police said they are “very concerned” about the fact that an Azzarello was able to self-immolate in such close proximity to the trial, adding that they intend to review their security protocols even though the Florida man “did not breach the security protocols.”

The officials also said that a bomb squad swept the area around the Manhattan courthouse and that nothing was found. Local police are continuing to work with Secret Service.

“We’ll make decisions if we need to tighten up security, maybe we’ll shut down the park – this is something that we’ll determine once we talk with all our partners, with the court officers, to make sure that, with everything going on – the gravity of the event going on right now – we have ample security,” a police official said.

The jury selection process lasted four days. Several prospective jurors, who were ultimately excused, expressed anxiety about serving on the high-profile panel given the media attention it is expected to receive.

Before moving on, Trump’s lawyers will discuss his possible trial testimony at a hearing this afternoon, where the judge will decide which topics prosecutors can cross-examine the former president about if he takes the stand. The process is intended to enable Trump to make an informed decision about whether to testify.

The topics span 13 different court determinations involving Trump in other cases.
Trump is accused of falsifying business records in connection with a hush money deal with an adult film actress made ahead of the 2016 election. He has pleaded not guilty.

Updated 3:50 p.m.

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