A New York judge has imposed a $5,000 fine on former President Trump for violating the partial gag order he had instituted in the civil trial linked to New York Attorney General Letitia James’ inquiry into the Trump family’s business dealings. The judge, Arthur Engoron, also issued a stern warning to Trump, the leading contender in the 2024 elections, cautioning that further infractions could lead to imprisonment.
Earlier this month, Judge Engoron had enacted a partial gag order to prevent all involved parties from making derogatory remarks about court personnel. This decision came in response to Trump’s social media criticism of a member of the judge’s office. Engoron detailed the violation in a filing on Friday, noting that Trump had posted a false and personally identifying statement about his Principal Law Clerk during a break in the trial on October 3. The judge ordered Trump to promptly remove the post.
The controversial post appeared on Trump’s Truth Social account, alleging that Engoron’s law clerk had a connection with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, and even included a photo. Trump argued that this connection warranted an immediate dismissal of the case.
Engoron recounted that approximately 10 minutes after the order, Trump assured him that the offending post had been taken down and that he would refrain from such behavior in the future. Subsequently, Judge Engoron imposed the partial gag order, emphasizing that personal attacks on members of his court staff were unacceptable, inappropriate, and would not be tolerated under any circumstances.
Despite the explicit order, the judge discovered that the offending post in question had not been removed from the website ‘DonaldJTrump.com.’ It had, in fact, remained on the site for the past 17 days until being taken down late at night, following an email from the Court.
Lawyers representing Trump claimed that the violation of the gag order was inadvertent and attributed it to an unfortunate aspect of the campaign structure.
However, Engoron emphasized that Trump had indeed “violated the gag order,” regardless of the circumstances.
“Donald Trump has been clearly cautioned by this Court regarding the potential consequences of breaching the gag order,” he stated. “He explicitly acknowledged his comprehension and commitment to comply with it.”
He went on to assert that issuing yet another warning was no longer appropriate, as the Court had moved beyond the stage of mere warnings.
Engoron noted that despite Trump’s assertion that the violation was “inadvertent” and framed as a “first-time” offense, the court would impose a “symbolic fine” of $5,000.
“Let it be clear: any future violations, whether deliberate or unintended, will expose the transgressor to considerably more severe penalties. These penalties may encompass, among other things, heavier financial sanctions, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and potentially resorting to imprisonment under the New York Judiciary Law.”
The trial follows a lawsuit brought by Democrat Letitia James last year against Trump, alleging that he and his company provided misleading information to banks and others regarding the value of his assets. James claimed that Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric, and their associates and businesses had engaged in “numerous acts of fraud and misrepresentation” on their financial statements.
During the summer, an appellate decision was made that restricted James from pursuing legal action regarding alleged transactions occurring prior to either July 13, 2014, or February 6, 2016, depending on the defendant. As a result, Ivanka Trump was dismissed as a defendant.
Donald Trump vehemently criticized James for initiating the lawsuit and for the absence of a jury trial. He also made derogatory comments about Judge Engoron, accusing him of corruption.
A spokesperson for Trump argued, “The Attorney General filed this case under a consumer protection statute that precludes a jury trial. The absence of a jury trial was not an option. It is regrettable that a jury will not have the opportunity to assess the questionable merits of this case and potentially conclude that no wrongdoing occurred.”
Judge Engoron recently ruled that Trump and the Trump Organization had engaged in fraudulent activities during the construction of their real estate ventures. They were found to have misled banks, insurers, and others by inflating the value of assets and exaggerating Trump’s net worth in documentation used for business deals and securing financing.
Engoron’s decision followed a lawsuit by Attorney General James against Trump, his children, and the Trump Organization. The lawsuit alleged that the former president had artificially inflated his net worth by billions of dollars and enlisted his children in the process.
Additionally, a federal judge issued a limited restraining order against Trump this week, preventing him from making disparaging remarks targeting Special Counsel Jack Smith, his team, witnesses, and court personnel.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, overseeing Smith’s case related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, issued this order during a court hearing on Monday. Chutkan clarified that Trump has the freedom to criticize the Justice Department in general terms and express his belief that the case against him is politically motivated. However, she emphasized that he cannot launch personal attacks against prosecutors or court staff.
Chutkan warned of potential sanctions if Trump were to violate this partial gag order, highlighting that no other criminal defendant would be allowed to do so.