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Max Azzarello, self-described investigative researcher, sets himself on fire outside Trump’s NY trial. — Reuters/File 

A man set himself ablaze in a horrifying incident outside a Manhattan courthouse where former United States president Donald Trump’s hush money trial was taking place on Friday.

According to the New York Post, a 37-year-old man named Max Azzarello set himself on fire minutes after jury selection had concluded in Trump’s hush money payment trial. He later succumbed to his wounds. 

But who was Azzarello and why did he choose this extreme act of protest?

What did Max Azzarello do?

Azzarello is a self-described “investigative researcher” from Florida who has spewed conspiracy theories about “elites” in a lengthy manifesto.

Moments before setting himself on fire in Collect Pond Park on Friday, he tossed pamphlets into the air, which included links to a newsletter authored by the self-immolator called “The Ponzi Papers”.

The article, containing conspiracy theories on everything from cryptocurrency and Hollywood actors to COVID-19 and former president Bill Clinton, was accompanied by a headline: “I have set myself on fire outside of the Trump Trial”.

It read: “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.”

Police said he was pictured outside a Lower Manhattan courthouse on Thursday, holding up a sign that said, “Trump is with Biden and they’re about to fascist coup us.”

Who was Max Azzarello?

According to a 2017 blog post, Azzarello was a growth manager at the nonprofit Strong Towns, which named “chess, creative writing, and Medieval Scandinavian poetry”, as his “passions”. 

In early 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic, Azzarello appeared to host a podcast with another person dedicated to actress Laura Dern called “Dern After Reading Podcast”.

His LinkedIn profile picture shows him posing with Bill Clinton, whom he sued last year along with 100 other influential defendants, including Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Saudi Arabia, and Texas billionaire Ross Perot, who died in 2019.

The conspiracy theory-tinged case was tossed out last October when he failed to follow up with required court filings.

The case — filed by Azzarello, without a lawyer — alleged “an elaborate network of Ponzi schemes” dating back to the 1990s and continuing through 2023.

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