A New York judge fined former President Trump $5,000 for violating the partial gag order he imposed in the civil trial stemming from New York Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the Trump family’s businesses, while warning the 2024 frontrunner that future violations could result in imprisonment.
Judge Arthur Engoron, earlier this month, imposed a partial gag order to prevent all parties from engaging in any verbal attacks against court staff after Trump criticized a member of the judge’s office on social media.
“On October 3, during a break in this trial, defendant Donald Trump posted to his social media account an untrue, disparaging, and personally identifying post about my Principal Law Clerk,” Engoron wrote in a filing Friday, adding that he ordered Trump to remove the post “immediately.”
The post in question was on Trump’s Truth Social account, and stated Engoron’s law clerk had a relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. The post also contained a photo. Trump added that because of that, the case “should be dismissed immediately.”
“Approximately 10 minutes later, Donald Trump represented to me that he had taken down the offending post, and that he would not engage in similar behavior going forward,” Engoron wrote, adding that he then imposed the partial gag order, which emphasized that “personal attacks on members of my court staff are unacceptable, inappropriate, and I will not tolerate them under any circumstances.”
“Despite this clear order, last night I learned that the subject offending post was never removed from the website ‘DonaldJTrump.com,’ and, in fact, had been on that website for the past 17 days,” Engoron wrote. “I understand it was removed late last night, but only in response to an email from this Court.”
Engoron said lawyers for Trump stated that the violation of the gag order was “inadvertent and was an ‘unfortunate part of the process that is built into the campaign structure.’”
But Engoron said, either way, Trump “violated the gag order.”
“Donald Trump has received ample warning from this Court as to the possible repercussions of violating the gag order,” he wrote. “He specifically acknowledged that he understood and would abide by it.”
He added: “issuing yet another warning is no longer appropriate; this Court is way beyond the ‘warning’ stage.”
Engoron said that given Trump’s position that the violation was “inadvertent,” and even that it is the “first time” violation, the court will impose a “nominal fine” of $5,000.
“Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include, but are not limited to, steeper financial penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him pursuant to New York Judiciary Law.”
The trial comes after James, a Democrat, brought a lawsuit against Trump last year alleging he and his company misled banks and others about the value of his assets. James claimed Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, as well as his associates and businesses, committed “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” on their financial statements.
An appellate ruling from over the summer, which limited James from suing for alleged transactions that occurred before July 13, 2014, or Feb. 6, 2016, depending on the defendant, dismissed Ivanka Trump as a defendant.
Trump has blasted James for bringing the lawsuit; for the trial not having a jury; and Engoron, calling him “corrupt.”
“The Attorney General filed this case under a consumer protection statute that denies the right to a jury,” a Trump spokesperson said. “There was never an option to choose a jury trial. It is unfortunate that a jury won’t be able to hear how absurd the merits of this case are and conclude no wrongdoing ever happened.”
Engoron, last month, ruled that Trump and the Trump Organization committed fraud while building his real estate empire by deceiving banks, insurers and others by overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth on paperwork used in making deals and securing financing.
Engoron’s ruling came after James sued Trump, his children and the Trump Organization, alleging that the former president “inflated his net worth by billions of dollars,” and said his children helped him to do so.
Meanwhile, a federal judge also imposed a partial gag order against Trump this week, blocking him from making statements targeting Special Counsel Jack Smith, his staff, witnesses and court personnel.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia, who is presiding over Smith’s case against the former president for charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, made the decision during a court hearing on Monday.
Chutkan said Monday that the former president is able to criticize the Justice Department in general terms and has the right to post his view that the case against him is politically motivated. However, the judge said Trump cannot post attacks against prosecutors or court staff.
“No other criminal defendant would be allowed to do so, and I’m not going to allow it in this case,” Chutkan said, adding that, if necessary, she would impose sanctions if Trump violates the partial gag order.
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