After more than ten weeks of extensive testimony, the civil fraud trial involving former President Donald Trump in New York has reached a crucial juncture.
Both parties have been assigned the task of drafting 50-page closing briefs during their holiday breaks, concluding a significant phase of the trial.
The next in-person meeting is scheduled for January 11, just days before the Iowa caucuses, signaling the start of the presidential primary season.
Trump’s fraud trial pauses; verdict expected in late January
A final decision in this high-profile fraud trial, which will shape the future of Trump’s real estate and golf resort empire in Manhattan, is not anticipated until late January.
The trial’s most recent transcript entry reflects State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s holiday wishes, marking a temporary pause in proceedings.
Judge’s management of the trial
Justice Engoron, who has overseen the case since its pretrial phase began three years ago, expressed satisfaction with the trial’s adherence to its schedule.
Despite multiple attempts by Trump’s defense to delay the trial, Engoron firmly maintained the October 2 start date, emphasizing the importance of proceeding “hell or high water.”
Defense’s challenge over evidence volume
In March, Trump’s defense team requested a six-month delay to review the voluminous evidence presented by the state attorney general — approximately 275,000 documents spanning 2.6 million pages across four hard drives.
The state countered this request, arguing that the documents, originating from Trump’s records, should be familiar to him.
Final testimonies and witness exchanges
Eric Lewis, a Cornell University accounting professor, was the final of around 40 witnesses to testify.
He served as a state rebuttal witness, challenging the defense’s lead expert’s claims regarding the oversight of “glaring” issues in Trump’s net-worth statements.
Lewis argued that the responsibility for correcting these misstatements fell on those who issued the net-worth statements, a role filled by Trump himself until 2017 and subsequently by Trump Organization executives.
Key defendant’s intense cross-examination
The defendants in the case include Eric Trump and other top executives from the Trump Organization. They are accused of participating in a conspiracy to defraud lenders and insurers.
The trial saw intense cross-examinations, with Trump’s defense lawyer, Jesus Suarez, notably questioning Lewis about his student reviews at Cornell, leading to a light-hearted exchange in the courtroom.
Closing arguments followed by legal formalities
After Lewis’s testimony, the defense made another attempt for an early verdict in their favor, which was unsuccessful.
The judge set a limit for the closing briefs and adjourned the session with a “See you next year.” A sense of relief and camaraderie among the lawyers and court officers marked the final moments in the courtroom.
NY Attorney General’s push for penalties in Trump business case
New York Attorney General Letitia James, the leading plaintiff in the case, seeks to bar Trump and his associates from conducting business in New York and is pushing for over $250 million in penalties.
These penalties represent profits and loan-interest savings allegedly accrued through misrepresenting net worth in financial statements.
Engoron’s pretrial ruling and Trump’s counterarguments
Engoron’s pretrial ruling already imposed severe penalties on Trump’s business operations, which are currently under appeal.
Trump and his legal team argue that real-estate valuations are subjective and have accused James and Engoron of partisan motivations.
Fire incident at the Courthouse
The day ended with an unrelated incident at the courthouse, where a small fire and the discharge of fire extinguishers led to an evacuation.
The individual responsible was arrested, and it remains unclear if the incident was connected to the trial.