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Mar-a-Lago property manager De Oliveira pleads not guilty

Mar-a-Lago property manager De Oliveira pleads not guilty

By Curt Anderson and Alanna Durkin Richer | Associated Press

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to scheming with Donald Trump to try to delete security footage sought by investigators probing the former president’s hoarding of classified documents.

An attorney for De Oliveira entered the plea on his behalf during a brief hearing in the Fort Pierce, Florida, federal court, where Trump is charged with illegally holding onto top-secret records at his Palm Beach club and thwarting government efforts to retrieve them.

It’s the third court appearance for De Oliveira, who twice before had his arraignment postponed because he hadn’t yet finalized a Florida-based attorney, which is required under court rules.

De Oliveira spoke only to answer the magistrate judge’s questions, such as whether he understood the charges against him. De Oliveira and his new attorney, Donnie Murrell of West Palm Beach, walked out of the courthouse without speaking to reporters.

De Oliveira’s arraignment comes a day after Trump was charged in a fourth criminal case. Monday night Trump and 18 allies were indicted in a case out of Fulton County, Georgia, over alleged efforts by him and his supporters to illegally meddle in the 2020 election in that state.

In the Mar-a-Lago case, Trump and his valet, Walt Nauta, were originally charged in June in one of two cases brought by special counsel Jack Smith. Smith has also charged Republican Trump in Washington with illegally conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

An updated indicted unsealed late last month brought more charges against Trump and Nauta, and added De Oliveira to the Florida case. Trump is facing dozens of felony counts in the classified documents case, and Smith’s new indictment included additional counts of obstruction and willful retention of national defense information.

Trump and Nauta have also pleaded not guilty. The former president has denied any wrongdoing.

De Oliveira, Trump and Nauta are facing charges that include conspiracy to obstruct justice in the case stemming from secret government documents found at Mar-a-Lago after Trump’s presidency ended in 2021. De Oliveira is also charged with lying to investigators. Prosecutors allege he falsely claimed he hadn’t even seen boxes moved into Mar-a-Lago after Trump left the White House.

The trial is scheduled to begin in May in front of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon. If the date holds, it would follow close on the heels of a separate New York trial for Trump on dozens of state charges of falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to a porn actor.

The allegations in the latest indictment focus on security footage prosecutors say Trump tried to have deleted after investigators sent a subpoena for it in June 2022. Prosecutors have not alleged the footage was actually deleted.

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Prosecutors say De Oliveira asked an information technology staffer how long the server retained footage and told the employee “the boss” wanted it deleted. When the employee said he didn’t believe he was able to do that, De Oliveira insisted the “boss” wanted it done, asking, “What are we going to do?”

Video from Mar-a-Lago could ultimately become vital to the government’s case because, prosecutors said, it shows Nauta moving boxes in and out of a storage room — an act alleged to have been done at Trump’s direction and in effort to hide records not only only from investigators but also from Trump’s own lawyers.

Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporter Freida Frisaro contributed from Fort Lauderdale.