Judge in Trump Civil Fraud Case Responds to Accusations of Bias in the Civil Fraud Case

Judge Arthur Engoron gave a prickly response to President Trump’s legal team’s accusations of bias against him.

The judge in former President Donald Trump’s $370 million civil lawsuit in New York—who, even before the trial began, ruled the former president liable for fraud—has sent a sharply worded email to President Trump’s attorneys defending his impartiality.

Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 8 email to Trump attorney Cliff Robert chides the lawyer for questioning the judge’s objectivity.

“You and your co-counsel have been questioning my impartiality since the early days of this case, presumably because I sometimes rule against your clients,” Judge Engoron wrote. “That whole approach is getting old.”

The insistence on his objectivity—and rebuke of Mr. Robert for suggesting otherwise—stemmed from a Monday email from Judge Engoron, in which he demanded answers from counsel amid rumors that Trump co-defendant Allen Weisselberg was negotiating a plea deal for perjury.

“As the presiding magistrate, the trier of fact, and the judge of credibility, I of course want to know whether Mr. Weisselberg is now changing his tune, and whether he is admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial,” Judge Engoron wrote.

Justice Arthur Engoron presides over the civil fraud trial of former President Donald Trump at New York State Supreme Court, in New York City, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)
Justice Arthur Engoron presides over the civil fraud trial of former President Donald Trump at New York State Supreme Court, in New York City, on Oct. 18, 2023. (Jeenah Moon/Getty Images)

‘Falsus In Uno’

The judge added that he was considering using Mr. Weisselberg’s potential admission that he lied in court to invoke “falsus in uno,” a legal doctrine that a witness who testified falsely about one thing is not credible to testify about other matters.

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This means Judge Engoron was considering dismissing Mr. Weisselberg’s broader testimony, which could include statements he made that cast President Trump in a positive light and so would weigh in favor of the former president as the judge considers his final verdict and potential punishment.

The trial centers on allegations that the former president and his company, The Trump Organization, defrauded banks, insurers, and others by allegedly overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth in documents used in deals and to secure loans.

The case was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who initially wanted to fine the former president $250 million but later increased this to $370 million.

Ms. James has requested additional penalties against President Trump, including a permanent ban on his doing business in New York state and with any New York-based financial institution.

New York Attorney General Letitia James calls on a journalist during a briefing in New York City on May 21, 2021. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
New York Attorney General Letitia James calls on a journalist during a briefing in New York City on May 21, 2021. (Richard Drew/AP Photo)
Judge Engoron, who even before the trial began issued a summary judgment finding President Trump and his company liable for fraud, is preparing to issue his final verdict, which could be as harsh as banning the former president for life from doing business in New York.

President Trump maintains his innocence and has called the trial a witch hunt.

How Harsh a Punishment?

As Judge Engoron considers issuing his verdict, there have been several developments with the apparent potential to affect the severity of the verdict.

This includes a letter issued by a court-appointed monitor claiming that parts of President Trump’s financial disclosure appeared incomplete or inconsistent.
Also, Ms. James recently asked Judge Engoron to consider a newfound legal precedent that she believes bolsters her case for a permanent Trump business ban.

And now, there are the rumors of Mr. Weisselberg’s potential perjury plea deal, with respect to which Judge Engoron asked Trump counsel to provide him with information “detailing anything you know about this.”

In that request to Trump counsel, Judge Engoron cited a report from The New York Times, which claimed based on anonymous sources that Mr. Weisselberg was negotiating a plea deal for perjuring himself when he took the stand in the the civil fraud trial in October.

In his response to Judge Engoron, Mr. Robert berated the judge for his “unprecedented, inappropriate and troubling” request that “calls into question the impartiality of the court.”

The Trump attorney also criticized Judge Engoron for considering “unsubstantiated news reports in rendering” his decision.

Mr. Robert’s assertions provoked a prickly response from Judge Engoron.

“When I sent my straightforward, narrow request for information about possible perjury by Allen Weisselberg in the subject case, I was not seeking to initiate a wide-ranging debate with counsel,” Judge Engoron wrote in the Feb. 8 reply to Mr. Robert’s charges.

“However, your misleading response grossly mischaracterizes the letter that I wrote, and I feel compelled to respond,” he continued.

Judge Engoron then accused Mr. Robert of “attacking a straw person” while insisting that he had not taken, did not plan to take, and never suggested that he would take the NY Times article “into consideration in my findings of fact.”

However, the judge added that if Mr. Weisselberg were to confess to having committed perjury before he issued his verdict, he will consider it in determining the severity of punishment for President Trump.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at Treasure Island Resort & Casino after Nevada caucus results in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 8, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Former President Donald Trump speaks at Treasure Island Resort & Casino after Nevada caucus results in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 8, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The judge’s letter did not indicate whether he plans to push back the date of issuing his final judgment, which he initially said he wanted to do in mid-January but later a court spokesperson told The Epoch Times this has been pushed back to early-to-mid-February as a “rough estimate.”

While Judge Engoron already issued a summary judgment finding President Trump liable for fraud, his impending verdict will determine damages and remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records.

President Trump has also said that if he loses the case, it will have a deeply chilling effect on businesses in New York City and could even prompt some to pack up and leave.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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