A New York judge on Friday denied a request by former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants for a mistrial in the $250 million civil business fraud case against them.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron said the arguments for a mistrial were “absolutely without merit” as he refused to sign the defendants’ bid for a motion to throw out the case.
The decision came two days after lawyers for Trump Sr., Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, the Trump Organization and its top executives argued that the case was undermined by political bias.
Defense lawyers claimed that Engoron and his chief law clerk “tainted these proceedings” and that “only the granting of a mistrial can save what is left of the rule of law. “
But Engoron disputed each allegation of bias in Friday’s ruling, and made it clear that he intends to lead the case to its conclusion.
“As expected, the Court today refuses to accept responsibility for its failure to handle this case in an impartial and impartial manner,” Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement. “We, however, remain undeterred and will continue to fight for our clients’ right to a fair trial.”
The lawsuit, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accuses the defendants of fraudulently inflating the values of Trump’s real estate assets and other assets over the years to obtain tax benefits, better loan terms and other financial advantages.
In addition to seeking $250 million in damages, James wants to permanently bar Trump and his two adult children from operating a business in New York.
Engoron has already found the defendants liable for fraud and ordered the cancellation of their New York business certificates. The trial, which is being conducted without a jury, will determine penalties and resolve James’ other claims of wrongdoing by Trump and his co-defendants.
An appeals court temporarily halted the process of dissolving Trump’s business entities.
In Friday’s ruling, Engoron analyzed all of the defendants’ arguments for a mistrial and explained why each was “without merit.”
Defense attorneys pointed to the articles Engoron linked to in his alumni newsletter, saying they created the appearance of impropriety because they related to the fraud case.
Engoron responded that he “did not write or contribute to any of the articles to which the defendants focus, and no reasonable reader could think otherwise.”
He also shrugged off claims that he and his clerk were “co-judging,” writing, “my rulings are mine, and mine alone.”
The clerk has been the target of such criticism that Engoron has imposed gag orders preventing Trump and his lawyers from making comments about him. Trump has twice violated the narrow gag order, receiving a total of $15,000 in fines.
A New York appeals judge on Thursday temporarily suspended those gag orders, citing “constitutional and statutory rights at stake.”
In their bid for a mistrial, defense attorneys also said the clerk’s presence in the case undermined its integrity because of contributions he made to Democratic groups, including some that support the attorney general.
They also accused the clerk of making contributions above the $500 limit applicable to staff members of a New York judge.
But Engoron said Trump’s lawyers are ignoring that the clerk is a candidate for judicial office, and therefore is not bound by the $500 limit when contributing to his own campaign or buying tickets to political functions. .
Engoron said it is “absurd” to assume that the clerk’s attendance at events sponsored by political organizations suggests that he, and by proxy the judge himself, must agree with the groups’ views. that.
“And in any event, they are a red herring, because my Principal Law Clerk does not make decisions or issue orders – I do,” Engoron wrote.
He noted that the attorney general’s office has called for a full briefing schedule on the mistrial motion. But “in good conscience, I cannot sign a proposed order to show cause which is wholly without merit, and in which subsequent instruction is therefore futile.”
The trial, which began last month, is expected to last until late December. Trump, a leading Republican presidential candidate, faces four pending criminal charges in addition to the fraud case and other civil matters.