The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James has argued that a gag order against former President Donald Trump should be upheld due to the surge in “hundreds of threatening, harassing, and antisemitic messages” received by a judge and his staff.
This statement was part of a court filing in response to Trump’s lawyers appealing the gag order set by Judge Arthur Engoron in a lawsuit over the alleged fraudulent evaluation of Trump properties.
Ongoing threats to Judge Engoron, court staff in Trump fraud trial
During the ongoing fraud trial at the New York Supreme Court, Judge Engoron and his court staff have reportedly been inundated with threatening messages from Trump supporters.
Engoron has penalized Trump twice for violating the gag order, prohibiting him from criticizing Engoron’s chief clerk, Allison Greenfield, and other court personnel.
In the recent filing to the New York First Division Appellate Court, Assistant Solicitor General Cleland B. Welton II from James’ office emphasized the direct connection between Trump’s public remarks and the threats.
Threats against Engoron’s staff linked to Trump’s personal attacks
“The threats against Engoron’s staff have followed personal attacks by Donald Trump,” Welton wrote. He pointed to a sworn statement by Charles Hollon of New York’s Judicial Threats Assessment Unit, which outlined the threats.
Hollon “attested that such messages reflect an ongoing security risk for the judge, his staff, and his family.”
Additionally, Hollon noted an increase in threats correlating with Trump’s attacks, considering them “serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative.”
Gag order imposed despite reduced threats and legal Challenges
According to Welton, the imposition of the gag order coincided with a reduction in threatening messages.
Trump’s legal team has challenged the gag order and the fines totaling $15,000 imposed for Trump’s criticism of Greenfield.
In defending the gag order, Welton stated, “Engoron placed exceedingly narrow restrictions on the speech of the parties and their counsel, respectively, in response to extraordinary and dangerous personal attacks that petitioner Donald J. Trump and petitioners’ counsel made against the court’s staff during trial.”
He also argued that Trump’s claimed free-speech injuries are minor compared to the risks, as the orders don’t restrict criticism of the Supreme Court, the presiding justice, the plaintiff, witnesses, or the trial’s substance.
In the ongoing fraud trial, Trump, who is leading in the polls for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has denied any misconduct.
Alongside Trump, his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., and senior executives at The Trump Organization have testified.
Trumps disavow involvement in financial statements
They claimed minimal involvement in the company’s annual financial statements, which they had signed, relying instead on their accounting firm.
In September, Engoron concluded that Donald Trump, Eric Trump, and Trump Jr. had engaged in fraudulent property evaluations.
The court is set to decide on six additional allegations, including falsifying business records, insurance fraud, and conspiracy claims.
Judge Engoron’s role and broader implications in Trump’s trial
Engoron will make the ruling, as Trump’s legal team chose not to have a jury trial.
This case highlights the complex intersection of legal proceedings, public discourse, and personal safety. The threats to court staff underscore the heightened tensions surrounding high-profile trials, particularly those involving political figures.
The decision on the gag order and the ongoing trial will be closely watched as they bear significant implications for legal precedent and political discourse.