Judge issues gag order preventing Trump from commenting on witnesses and others in hush money cases

(Frank Franklin/Associated Press)

Judge issues gag order preventing Trump from commenting on witnesses and others in hush money cases

Election 2024


March 26, 2024

A judge in New York on Tuesday issued a silence order banning Donald Trump from making public statements about witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in his upcoming hush-money criminal trial.

Judge Juan M. Merchan cited the former president’s previous comments about him and others in the case, as well as a looming April 15 trial date, in granting a motion to prosecute for what would be a narrowly tailored order mentioned that Trump prevented certain deportations. statements from the court.

There is no doubt that the immediacy of the risk of harm is now paramount, Merchan wrote.

Prosecutors had sought the gag order, citing what they called Trump’s long history of making public and inflammatory comments about people involved in his lawsuits.

The silence order does not preclude comments about Merchan or Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat. But it prohibits Trump from attacking key figures in the case, such as his former lawyer and arch-enemy Michael Cohen or porn actor Stormy Daniels.

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The prosecutor’s office declined to comment. Messages were left seeking comment for Trump’s campaign.

The silence order adds to restrictions put in place after Trump’s April arraignment that ban him from using evidence in the case to attack witnesses.

Following a hearing Monday in which Merchan set a trial date for April 15, Trump took to social media to blast prosecutor Matthew Colangelo, referring to the former Justice Department official as a Justice Department radical leftist. who was sent to the district attorney’s office to conduct the trial of Trump and that was done by Biden and his thugs.”

Merchan cited that comment in his ruling.

The Manhattan case centers on allegations that Trump falsified his company’s internal records to conceal the true nature of the payments to Cohen. The lawyer paid Daniels $130,000 as part of an effort during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to bury claims that he had extramarital sexual encounters.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying corporate records, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, although there is no guarantee a conviction would result in prison time.

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Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has repeatedly lashed out about the case on social media, warning of possible death and destruction before his indictment last year, and posting a photo on social media of himself holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Bragg. and complain that Merchan is a Trump-hating judge with a family full of Trump haters.

Trump was already under a similar silence order in his criminal election interference case in Washington DC and was fined $15,000 for twice violating a silence order imposed in his civil fraud trial in New York after making a disparaging social media post about the judge’s chief clerk. . In January, a federal judge in Manhattan threatened Trump with removal from court in a civil lawsuit over writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation claims against him after he was heard saying: It’s a witch hunt, and it’s really a scam.

Self-regulation is not a viable alternative, as the defendants’ recent history makes clear, prosecutors wrote in court filings. Trump, they said, has a long and perhaps unique history of using social media, campaign speeches and other public statements to attack judges, jurors, attorneys, witnesses and other individuals involved in legal proceedings against him.

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The silence order echoes parts of an order imposed on Trump in October in his federal case in Washington accusing him of plotting to overturn the results of his 2020 election loss to Democratic rival Joe Biden.

A federal appeals court panel in December largely upheld Judge Tanya Chutkan’s ban, but narrowed it in a major way by giving Trump the freedom to criticize special counsel Jack Smith, who brought the case. Prosecutors in Manhattan echoed that ruling by excluding Bragg from their proposed silence order.

In May, Merchan issued a so-called protective order warning Trump and his lawyers that they risked being held in contempt if they distributed evidence from the hush money case to third parties, used it to attack witnesses or posted sensitive material on social media .

Merchan, noting Trump’s special status as a former president and current candidate, tried to make clear at the time that the protection order should not be construed as a gag order, saying, “It is certainly not my intention to in any way undermine the policy of to hinder Mr. Trump. opportunity to campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Michael R. Sisak writes for the Associated Press.


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