Trump’s New York Fraud Trial Kicks Off With News He’ll Be Tried Without a Jury Because His Lawyers Didn’t File the Paperwork for One

In the year 2023, it’s legitimately a full-time job, and one for which people should receive hazard pay, to keep track of all of the various legal problems facing Donald Trump. As a quick recap, there are four criminal indictments, a defamation suit by writer E. Jean Carroll, and a civil case from the New York attorney general accusing him of fraud. On Monday, Trump was in court to fight that last one—and it started out comically bad for him.

To rewind, things were already going poorly for Trump on account of Judge Arthur Engoron’s ruling last week that the ex-president, the Trump Organization, and his two adults sons had committed years of massive fraud by overvaluing the company’s assets in order to receive better loan terms and lower insurance costs. On Monday—which kicked off the trial in which Engoron will decide if Trump must pay the $250 million in damages demanded by NY AG Letitia James, and if he will be barred from running a business in New York—things then got worse when the judge blew up one of Trump’s major complaints about the proceedings, and made his lawyers look like idiots in the process. 

Responding to Trump’s rant that Engoron is a “a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge” who denied him of a jury trial, Engoron reportedly informed the former president that the reason he alone, and not a jury, will decide the case is, is because “nobody asked for” a jury trial. As The Messenger notes, earlier this year, James filed a court document with a checkmark next to “trial without a jury,” which Trump’s legal team could have argued against via their own form, but did not. It’s not clear if the ex-president’s lawyers purposely chose to forgo a jury trial, which would seemingly be unwise, or if they somehow just forgot to file the paperwork asking for one, which would somehow be even worse. 

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During opening statements on Monday, Kevin Wallace, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office, reportedly declared that “Year after year, loan after loan, defendants misrepresented Mr. Trump’s net worth.” He argued that while it might be okay—or not illegal—to do so to get on a magazine’s rich list, “you cannot do it while conducting business in the state of New York.” Wallace also referred to what is presumably a very touchy point on Trump’s part, that, per the government, he valued his triplex in Trump Tower based on a size of 30,000 square feet, when in reality it is about one-third of that size. In a statement, James said: “Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth to enrich himself and cheat the system. No matter how rich or powerful you are, there are not two sets of laws for people in this country.”

Trump’s legal team—the one that didn’t file the paperwork to get a jury—has of course claimed that the ex-president did nothing wrong, with Alina Habba reportedly arguing during her opening statement that the Trump Organization was just “doing business” and that “there was no intent to defraud, period, the end.” She also claimed James’s sole purpose in running for attorney general was to “get Trump,” the Times noted. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Trump called the case a “witch hunt” and “a disgrace,” saying, “You ought to go after this attorney general,” because if there’s one thing the man loves, it’s a not-so-veiled threat against his enemies. According to the Times, “As he left the courtroom on Monday afternoon, Mr. Trump passed Ms. James in the front row. He glared at her. Soon after, his son Eric walked by and shook her hand.”

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