Former President Donald Trump has been slapped with a $5,000 fine after a social media post disparaging a court staffer in his New York civil fraud trial continued to haunt his campaign website in defiance of a court order.
Trump Escapes Contempt for Now
Judge Arthur Engoron refrained from holding Trump in contempt but retained the option to do so and even consider imprisonment if Trump breaches the limited gag order prohibiting personal attacks on court staff by case participants.
Limited Gag Order
In a written ruling, Judge Engoron made it clear that he’s moved beyond the ‘warning’ stage.
However, the fine was relatively modest as this was the first violation, and Trump’s legal team argued that the post remaining on the campaign website had been accidental.
Future Violations Will Be Dealt With Severely
“Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include steeper financial penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him,” Engoron wrote in a two-page order.
Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, attributed the post’s prolonged presence on the campaign website to the sheer scale of Trump’s White House campaign.
It was, according to Kise, an unintentional oversight, but it was only removed after Judge Engoron brought it to the attention of Trump’s legal team.
Trump’s Absence in Court
Trump himself was not present in court during this ruling.
He had attended the trial on various occasions, where he frequently expressed his dissatisfaction with Judge Engoron and New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose lawsuit concerning fraud is being decided in the civil trial.
Engoron emphasized that the ultimate responsibility rests with Trump, even if it was a campaign staffer who failed to take down the controversial post.
Deadline to Pay the Fine
The judge has given Trump 10 days to pay the fine.
The Gag Order
The legal saga began on October 3 when Engoron issued a limited gag order, prohibiting all participants from smearing court staff, after Trump had made derogatory remarks about principal law clerk Allison Greenfield on his Truth Social platform.
Trump was ordered to remove the post and warned of “serious sanctions” for any violations.
Judge Engoron’s Concerns
Judge Engoron highlighted the potential harm caused by explosive falsehoods in the current polarized climate.
Archived Controversial Post
Trump eventually deleted the post from Truth Social, but it had been copied into an email sent to around 25,800 campaign recipients and was automatically archived on Trump’s website.
New York’s Contempt Laws
Kise explained that the archiving was an unfortunate part of the campaign process and claimed the incident was truly accidental.
New York law allows judges to impose fines or imprisonment for contempt.
The Ongoing Trial
The trial, instigated by James’ lawsuit, alleges that Trump and his company defrauded banks and insurers by inflating Trump’s net worth and asset values.
Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his company committed fraud, and the trial now centers on conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records.
Allegations and Denials
Trump, denying any wrongdoing, has dismissed the trial as a “sham” and a continuation of what he terms the “greatest witch hunt of all time.”
He asserts that disclaimers on his financial statements absolve him of culpability and that some of his assets are worth more than their listed values.
Upcoming State Witness
The trial’s intensity is set to escalate, with Trump’s one-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, now a crucial state witness, expected to take the stand soon.
Trump Family’s Testimonies
Trump’s children, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are slated to testify in the coming weeks, while his daughter, Ivanka Trump, faces legal battles over her involvement in the case.
Implications for Trump’s Political Future
This development raises questions about the implications for Trump’s political future as legal challenges continue to mount.
It remains to be seen how these legal entanglements will impact his aspirations and potential candidacy in the 2024 presidential race.
As the trial unfolds, the nation watches on, captivated by the drama surrounding one of its most controversial figures.
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