Who Is Max Azzarello? Man Who Set Self on Fire Outside Trump Trial Is Self-Described 'Investigative Researcher' and Shared Conspiracy Theories About Elites

Azzarello claimed that "elites" have propagated fear to accumulate wealth and then transition society into a fascist dystopia.

  • Updated

The Florida man who set himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse during Donald Trump's hush money trial on Friday is a self-proclaimed "investigative researcher", who appeared to become increasingly erratic over the past year and shared conspiracy theories about the "elites" in a detailed manifesto.

Max Azzarello, 37, from St. Augustine, Fla., threw a bunch of pamphlets into the air moments before setting himself on fire in Collect Pond Park. These pamphlets contained links to a Substack newsletter titled "The Ponzi Papers," which seemed to be authored by Azzarello himself. Azzarello doused himself in an alcohol substance before using a lighter to ignite his clothes near Manhattan criminal court.

Investigative Researcher With Strange Conspiracy Theories

Max Azzarello
Max Azzarello Instagram

The pamphlets thrown by Azzarelo before he set himself on fire contain strange conspiracy theories. On top of the site an article titled "I have set myself on fire outside of the Trump Trial," accompanied by a meandering manifesto filled with conspiracy theories touching on various topics, including cryptocurrency, Hollywood actors, COVID, and former President Bill Clinton.

"My name is Max Azzarello, and I am an investigative researcher who has set himself on fire outside of the Trump trial in Manhattan," the nearly 2,700-word posting begins.

Max Azzarello
Max Azzarello had shared strange conspiracy theories before setting himself on fire X

"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."

Azzarello also mentioned The Simpsons, the bank failures of 2023, and prominent figures such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. He claimed that both Republicans and Democrats have inundated the public with several existential threats to create a doomsday scenario.

Azzarello claimed that "elites" have propagated fear to accumulate wealth and then transition society into a fascist dystopia.

According to police, he arrived in New York City earlier in the week, and his family was unaware of his travels to the city.

Azzarello was photographed outside the Lower Manhattan courthouse at 100 Centre St., just the day before the incident, holding a sign declaring "Trump is with Biden and they're about to fascist coup us."

He shouted at a group of reporters, "Biggest scoop of your life or your money back!" explaining to The New York Times that he moved from Washington Square Park to the courthouse as he anticipated more people being present due to the cold weather.

Trump fire
Max Azzarello was rushed to the hospital as he appeared to be alive X

"Trump's in on it," Azzarello told the Times on Thursday, indicating his beliefs were shaped by his investigation into Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and prominent political donor.

"It's a secret kleptocracy, and it can only lead to an apocalyptic fascist coup."

Complicated Past

A 2017 blog post by the nonprofit Strong Towns, which is no longer available, introduced Max Azzarello as their new growth manager. In his bio, Azzarello mentioned his "childhood town," describing it as a "charming, friendly, eclectic community in Long Island, New York."

Max Azzarello
Max Azzarello was pictured a day earlier outside the Manhattan court holding a conspiracy theory sign X

The organization highlighted Azzarello's passions, which included "chess, creative writing, and Medieval Scandinavian poetry."

Azzarello also appeared to co-host a podcast called "Dern After Reading Podcast" dedicated to actress Laura Dern, which was active in early 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States.

Azzarello's LinkedIn profile picture shows him posing with Bill Clinton, with whom he filed a lawsuit last year along with 100 other influential defendants in a case steeped in conspiracy theories. However, the case was dismissed last October due to Azzarello's failure to follow up with required court filings.

Among the defendants named in the 2023 suit filed in Manhattan federal court were Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, the country of Saudi Arabia, and the late Texas billionaire and 1992 Independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.

Azzarello filed the case without a lawyer, alleging "an elaborate network of Ponzi schemes" dating back to the 1990s and continuing through 2023.

Max Azzarello
Max Azzarello had thrown pamphlets in the air moments before setting himself on fire X

At an NYPD press conference held shortly after Azzarello was taken to the hospital, Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny referred to the incident as "propaganda-based."

"We're looking through his social media and what he did online prior and it does appear he posted something online prior to this incident," Kenny said.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry added, "This wasn't targeting any particular person. Right now, we're labeling it as a conspiracy theorist. The investigation will continue."