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Trump’s lawyers want a mistrial in his New York civil fraud case. They claim the judge is biased

by Ethan Kim
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Trump mistrial request

Attorneys representing Donald Trump have requested a mistrial in his ongoing New York civil fraud trial, alleging that Judge Arthur Engoron has exhibited significant bias that undermines the integrity of the proceedings. This request was made on Wednesday, amid concerns that the judge’s actions and decisions have adversely affected Trump’s entitlement to a fair trial.

The legal team for Trump emphasized their concerns to Judge Engoron, citing his rulings and the influential role of his chief law clerk as evidence of partiality. They believe these factors have caused irreversible damage to the trial’s impartiality.

In response, Judge Engoron allowed the attorneys for New York Attorney General Letitia James until Thursday to respond before making a decision. Previously, Engoron had rejected a motion for a directed verdict by the defense.

Trump, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election, has consistently expressed dissatisfaction with Judge Engoron, who is affiliated with the Democratic Party. Trump’s frustration was exacerbated by a gag order the judge issued at the trial’s commencement and a pretrial decision potentially affecting control over some of Trump’s significant properties.

During his testimony last week, Trump criticized Judge Engoron as exceptionally hostile and labeled the trial as extremely unfair. The legal team for Trump consolidated their grievances into a 30-page document advocating for a mistrial. They argue that halting the trial is essential to uphold public confidence in an impartial judiciary and the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Judge Engoron briefly acknowledged the mistrial request in court on Wednesday, as the defense continued to present their witnesses. He oversees a bench trial, wherein he will determine the outcome without a jury, as New York law does not permit jury trials in this lawsuit category.

The office of Attorney General James released a statement asserting that Trump is attempting to evade accountability for his fraudulent actions. They maintain that Trump’s efforts to dismiss the truth will not succeed, as the evidence clearly demonstrates his fraudulent activities aimed at personal and familial financial gain. James’ office is seeking over $300 million, alleging that Trump and his company, including his sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, significantly inflated his wealth on financial statements to secure loans and facilitate deals.

Before the trial, Judge Engoron determined that Trump and other defendants had committed fraud by overstating his net worth and asset values on financial statements. Consequently, the judge ordered a receiver to manage some of Trump’s assets, though an appeals court has temporarily maintained Trump’s control over them.

Trump’s lawyers had hinted at requesting a mistrial for weeks, especially after a citizen complaint published by Breitbart News in early November accused Engoron’s chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, of breaching court rules by donating to Democratic causes while campaigning for a judicial position in 2022.

Greenfield, who is often present with Engoron in the courtroom, became a contentious figure early in the trial, which began on October 2. Trump’s disparaging remarks about her on social media prompted Engoron to implement a limited gag order to prevent disparaging comments about court staff.

After Trump twice breached this order, resulting in a $15,000 fine, Engoron expanded the order to include Trump’s attorneys following their courtroom complaints about Greenfield’s interactions with the judge. Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, expressed his frustration at feeling opposed by both Engoron and Greenfield. Engoron defended his right to seek Greenfield’s counsel.

In their motion for a mistrial, Trump’s lawyers accused Engoron of allowing Greenfield to act as a quasi-judge and questioned whether her political affiliations were influencing the trial’s perceived bias against Trump and in favor of the Attorney General. The lawyers argued that the restrictions placed on discussing Greenfield and the expanded gag order hindered their ability to effectively represent their clients.

A state court spokesperson, on behalf of Engoron and Greenfield, declined to comment, citing the active nature of the litigation.

State ethics rules limit judicial staff members to a maximum of $500 in political contributions annually, with exceptions for staff members running for judicial positions. In such cases, they can exceed this limit to buy tickets to political events, provided they do not purchase more than two tickets per event, and each ticket does not exceed $250.

Greenfield, who ran for a civil court judgeship in Manhattan in 2022, made contributions exceeding $4,000 during that period, mainly for tickets to local Democratic club events. Attendance at these events is commonly expected for judicial candidates in New York, as it aids in securing party endorsements. Legal experts, including veteran New York election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder, argue that paying for these events is an ethical obligation and that the defense’s allegations against Greenfield are baseless.

Goldfeder remarked that the defense’s claims are either a misunderstanding of the law or a deliberate disregard for it.

Reporter Jake Offenhartz from Big Big News contributed to this report. For further information, follow Michael Sisak at x.com/mikesisak and submit confidential tips at https://www.ap.org/tips.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Trump mistrial request

Why did Donald Trump’s lawyers request a mistrial in the New York civil fraud case?

Donald Trump’s legal team requested a mistrial, alleging that Judge Arthur Engoron displayed significant bias that compromised Trump’s right to a fair trial. They cited the judge’s rulings and the role of his chief law clerk as evidence of this bias.

What specific actions of Judge Engoron were cited as reasons for the mistrial request?

The mistrial request focused on Judge Engoron’s rulings against Trump, the influence of his chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, and a gag order imposed at the trial’s start. Trump’s lawyers argued these actions demonstrated a lack of impartiality.

What response did the New York Attorney General’s office have to Trump’s mistrial request?

The New York Attorney General’s office, led by Letitia James, argued that Trump’s mistrial request was an attempt to evade accountability for fraudulent activities. They emphasized that the evidence clearly demonstrates Trump’s fraudulent conduct aimed at personal gain.

How did Trump personally view Judge Engoron’s conduct in the trial?

Donald Trump described Judge Engoron as “extremely hostile” and considered the trial “very unfair.” His dissatisfaction with Engoron was a longstanding issue, exacerbated by the judge’s decisions and orders during the trial.

What are the allegations against Trump in this New York civil fraud case?

The allegations against Trump include exaggerating his wealth by billions of dollars on financial statements, inflating property values to secure loans and make deals. Attorney General Letitia James seeks over $300 million for what she claims are ill-gotten gains.

What is the significance of Judge Engoron’s chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, in this case?

Allison Greenfield, Engoron’s chief law clerk, became a contentious figure in the trial. Trump’s lawyers accused her of acting as a “de facto co-judge” and questioned her political donations and influence on the trial’s proceedings.

More about Trump mistrial request

  • New York civil fraud case against Trump
  • Judge Engoron’s alleged bias in Trump trial
  • Trump’s legal team’s mistrial request
  • Attorney General Letitia James’ response
  • Donald Trump’s views on Judge Engoron
  • Allegations in Trump’s New York fraud case
  • Role of Allison Greenfield in Trump trial

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