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 Click The Law - Headline Legal News
Trump hush money trial: Trump held in contempt of court for gag order violation
Headline Legal News | 2024/04/29 05:55
Donald Trump was held in contempt of court Tuesday and fined $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order that barred him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors and some others connected to his New York hush money case. And if he does it again, the judge warned, he could be jailed.

Prosecutors had alleged 10 violations, but New York Judge Juan M. Merchan found there were nine. The ruling was a stinging rebuke for the presumptive Republican nominee, who had insisted he was exercising his free speech rights. Trump stared down at the table in front of him as the judge read the ruling, frowning slightly.

Merchan wrote that he is “keenly aware of, and protective of,” Trump’s First Amendment rights, “particularly given his candidacy for the office of President of the United States.”

“It is critically important that defendant’s legitimate free speech rights not be curtailed, that he be able to fully campaign for the office which he seeks and that he be able to respond and defend himself against political attacks,” Merchan wrote.

Still, he warned, that the court would not tolerate “willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment.”

The ruling came at the start of the second week of testimony in the historic case. Manhattan prosecutors say Trump and his associates took part in an illegal scheme to influence the 2016 presidential campaign by burying negative stories. He has pleaded not guilty.

Trump was ordered to pay the fine by the close of business Friday, Merchan ruled, and he must remove seven offending posts from his Truth Social account and two from his campaign website by 2:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Merchan said. The judge is also weighing other alleged gag order violations by Trump and will hear arguments Thursday.

Of the 10 posts, the one Merchan ruled was not a violation came on April 10, a post referring to witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels as “sleaze bags.” Merchan said Trump’s contention that he was responding to previous posts by Cohen “is sufficient to give” him pause on whether the post was a violation.

Among those he found to be violations, Merchan ruled that a Trump post quoting Fox News host Jesse Watters’ claim that liberal activists were lying to infiltrate the jury “constitutes a clear violation” of the gag order. Merchan noted that the words contained within the quotation marks in Trump’s April 17 post misstated what Watters actually said.



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