Trial Judge Warns Trump That Jail Time Could Follow Future Violations

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New York Judge Arthur Engoron, who is handling the trial on state Attorney General Letitia James’ sweeping case accusing former President Donald Trump and interests close to him of fraud, is warning that a stint in jail could follow future violations of a limited gag order that the judge previously imposed.

These restrictions on public commentary cover members of court staff, and the judge’s previous order came after Trump maligned a judicial clerk in highly personal terms online. The post on Truth Social (Trump’s social media site) was deleted around that time, but a copy of the post on a Trump website was left until this week — weeks after the October 3 gag order. Engoron took the matter very seriously, having noted that the kind of rhetoric he was seeking to stop has progressed in real-world terms to threats of violence and actual violence. Citing factors like the first-time nature of this offense — even if inadvertent of leaving the copy of the post on that other website, Engoron imposed Friday a nominal fine on Trump of $5,000.

This same judge has previously fined Trump over $100,000 for lapses in compliance with investigative demands in this same matter before James brought the civil lawsuit. “Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions, which may include steeper financial penalties, holding Donald Trump in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him,” Engoron said, as highlighted by the Associated Press. A lawyer for Trump had tried to credit the copy of the post staying online to the massive scope of Trump’s political operation, but the judge still insisted that responsibility ultimately rested with the former president, who’s still running for president again.

Though the judge already made a formal conclusion that Trump had perpetrated fraud, trial is continuing on questions like additional claims from James including insurance fraud and falsifying business records. As this case is civil in nature, criminal consequences like a stint in jail will not follow as punishment for the underlying offenses, if proven.