Donald Trump’s request for a mistrial in the civil fraud lawsuit against him by state Attorney General Letitia James was denied by a New York judge yesterday, after the judge and his law clerk were accused of political bias by the former US president.
Judge Arthur Engoron of the New York state court in Manhattan said Trump’s mistrial request was “completely without merit” and he could not “in good faith” grant it.
Trump, his adult sons, his company, and other defendants have been charged by James with falsifying financial statements, asset values and Trump’s net worth to cheat banks and insurers.
She wants US$250 million in penalties, and to ban Trump from New York state real estate business, among other remedies. The trial started in early October.
Trump’s request for a mistrial was unlikely to succeed, given Engoron’s previous findings that Trump’s financial statements were false, and the judge’s support of his law clerk.
“Today the court, as expected, did not admit its failure to oversee this case in a fair and impartial way,” Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement. “We, however, are not discouraged and will keep fighting for our clients’ right to a fair trial.”
Trump leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination to take on Democratic President Joe Biden in next November’s election.
His lawyers were unhappy with various decisions in the case by Engoron, a Democrat, and his editing a high school alumni newsletter that had links to articles about the case.
They also complained about political donations made by Engoron’s clerk, Allison Greenfield, saying they were unethical.
But the judge said he has handled the case “fairly, impartially, and professionally” for more than three years, and planned to do so until the end.
“I stand by every ruling, and they speak for themselves,” Engoron wrote.
The judge also backed Greenfield, who has been running for a judgeship, saying state law and ethics rules allowed her donations.
He also rejected that Greenfield was having improper influence, saying his decisions “are mine, and mine only,” and that there was “no ‘co-judging’ at all.”
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly attacked Engoron and Greenfield, leading Engoron to issue gag orders to stop them from talking about his staff. Engoron has fined Trump for US$15,000 for breaking his order twice.
A state appeals court judge on Thursday temporarily lifted the gag orders, pending review by a five-judge appellate panel.
Trump quickly used the opportunity to attack Greenfield, calling her ”politically biased and out of control” on his Truth social platform.
The former president also faces four unrelated federal and state criminal charges, including two over his attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. He has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.