Judge threatens to send Trump to prison for violating gag order

October 21, 2023, 1:45 pm

<p>Former US President Donal Trump.  <em>(Anadolu)</em></p>

Former US President Donal Trump.  (Anadolu)

HOUSTON, United States – A New York judge overseeing the $250 million civil fraud trial of Donald Trump on Friday threatened to send the former president to prison for violating a gag order in the case.

Judge Arthur Engoron threatened to hold Trump in contempt of his Oct. 3 order which required him to delete a social media post made on the second day of the trial with an "untrue and disparaging post about my clerk," according to multiple media outlets.

The gag order also barred Trump from making any personal attacks on members of Engoron's staff.

"I ordered him to remove the post immediately and he said he did take it down," Engoron said, according to NBC News. "Despite this order, last night I learned the offending post was never removed from a website. This is a blatant violation of the gag order."

However, the judge said the post remained on Trump's 2024 campaign website for 17 days until it was removed late Thursday night after the court emailed him about the violation.

"Incendiary untruths can and have led to serious physical harm," Engoron continued. "I will now allow the defendant to explain why this should not end up with serious sanctions or I could possibly imprison him."

Trump's defense attorney, Chris Kise, said the situation was "truly inadvertent."

"The Truth Social post was taken down when the court asked," Kise told the judge.

"Trump never made any more comments about court staff, but it appears no one took it down on the campaign website. It is unfortunate and I apologize on behalf of my client."

The judge said he would take Kise's remarks "under advisement" and has not yet made a decision on any possible punishment. He also stated that Trump is responsible for any messages that appear on his campaign website.

The online post in question referred to the former president implying that Engoron's judicial clerk had an inappropriate relationship with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Schumer's staff said he did not know the clerk and denied the claim, calling it "pathetic, ridiculous, absurd and false."

New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking $250 million in civil penalties in the case. The suit alleges that Trump and his two sons engaged in fraud to inflate and deflate Trump's personal net worth over a 10-year period in order to receive favorable loan agreements.

In a ruling that allowed the trial to proceed, Engoron said that Trump lied to banks and insurers by both overvaluing and undervaluing his assets which amounted to billions of dollars of price fluctuations over the years.

The attorney general said this alleged fraud happened more than 200 times during that decade-long period.

Trump also faces a partial gag order in the election interference case, one of the four criminal cases against him. In that case, the judge banned the former president from making statements about potential witnesses in addition to making disparaging comments about prosecutors. (Anadolu)