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Who was Max Azzarello, US 'conspiracy theorist' who set himself on fire outside Donald Trump's trial?

Azzarello, 37, reportedly tossed around pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories and then proceeded to set himself on fire, shocking the people and police. The New York Police Department said the man did not appear to be targeting Trump or anybody else involved in the trial.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Updated on: April 20, 2024 12:19 IST
Max Azzarello, self immolation, Trump trial
Image Source : REUTERS Max Azzarello set himself on fire outside former US President Donald Trump's hush money trial on Friday

New York: Dramatic scenes ensued outside a New York court where former US President Donald Trump's hush money criminal trial - the first-ever criminal trial of an ex-US President - when a man set himself on fire and burned for several minutes in full view of television cameras before the fire was extinguished. Police have identified the man as Max Azzarello, 37, and labelled him as a "conspiracy theorist".

Azzarello travelled from Florida to New York at the Collect Pond Park outside the courthouse, where he reportedly took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said. He was admitted to hospital in a critical condition but succumbed to his injuries later. The New York Police Department said the man did not appear to be targeting Trump or anybody else involved in the trial.

"Right now we are labelling him as sort of a conspiracy theorist, and we are going from there," Tarik Sheppard, a deputy commissioner with the Police Department, said at a news conference. One of his pamphlets included references to "evil billionaires" but portions that were visible to a Reuters witness did not mention Trump.

"He was on fire for quite a while," one witness, who declined to give his name, told reporters. "It was pretty horrifying." The shocking development came shortly after jury selection for the trial was completed, clearing the way for prosecutors and defense attorneys to make opening statements on Monday in a case stemming from hush money paid to an adult film star.

Max Azzarello's "bizarre" conspiracy theories

Prior to his shocking act, Azzarello had published an online manifesto, where he warned about an "apocalyptic fascist world coup" and described

people as victims of a "totalitarian con". The manifesto depicted a strong dissatisfaction with the prevailing political landscape - promising the "rotten truth of post-truth America" and accused the US government of supporting the totalitarian con.

However, his posts were mainly targeting cryptocurrency and Ponzi schemes and did not mention any references towards Trump. In his manifesto titled 'I have set myself on fire outside the Trump Trial', Azzarello says, "This extreme act of protest is to draw attention to an urgent and important discovery: We are victims of a totalitarian con, and our own government (along with many of their allies) is about to hit us with an apocalyptic fascist world coup...To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you."

Describing himself as an "investigative researcher", Azzarello said he was looking into the connections between cryptocurrencies and banks and called cryptocurrency the "first planetary multi-trillion-dollar Ponzi scheme" created purposefully by a laundry list of powerful people out of Silicon Valley or Harvard/Facebook. His theories were linked to former US president Bill Clinton, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, Hollywood actor Rob Lowe and other personalities.

"Funneling trillions of dollars in stolen cash through the stock market created the largest stock-market anomaly in history...In order to explain the massive anomaly, our criminal government unleashed COVID on the world and told us these were the 'stay at home stocks'...cryptocurrency is history’s largest Ponzi by orders of magnitude. It could best be described as an economic doomsday device," read some more of his theories online.

Days before the self-immolation, Azzarello was pictured holding a sign while protesting outside the same courthouse which read "Trump is with Biden and they're about to fascist coup us". In his manifesto, Azzarello said the government had been conning the people and the Democrat v Republican division was 'manufactured' in public, describing it as a "secret kleptocracy".

Who is Max Azzarello?

According to The Independent, Azzarello’s driver’s license showed he was born in 1987 and was a native of St Augustine, Florida, police said. He was registered as a Democrat and attended the University of North Carolina from 2005 to 2009, according to public records and his LinkedIn page. He had a long history of posting conspiracy theories and railing against the rich and powerful.

The New York Post reported that Azzarello was arrested three times in Florida last year, including for throwing wine at a framed autograph featuring Bill Clinton, according to police records. He was hit with misdemeanour charges of criminal mischief and disturbing the peace, according to the records. In one of his mug shots, Azzarello can be seen with his tongue sticking out and one eye closed.

Two days later, he again was arrested for allegedly stripping down to his boxers and yelling at customers at the same hotel as part of other erratic behaviour, according to other reports. Police paperwork from the final arrest indicated Azzarello was suicidal. He was also listed as unemployed.

Azzarello had also attempted to sue former president Bill Clinton last year in a huge, but conspiracy-laden filing with more than 100 other individuals named, but the case was quickly thrown out by the judge. He is also reported to have spent some days in a psych ward before his slew of arrests in Florida.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | US: Man self-immolates himself outside Trump trial court in New York


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