Judge Arthur Engoron’s recent decision to allow Dobrinald Trump to speak during closing arguments in his New York civil fraud trial has been hailed as a “brilliant” maneuver by Charles Coleman Jr., a former prosecutor. The case could see Trump barred from directing a business in New York for life.
Attorney General goes after Trump Organization
New York’s Attorney General Letitia James sued former President Trump in September 2022, along with his adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric, and two former employees of the Trump Organization, for $250 million. James accused them of inflating the value of the former president’s assets and his net worth by billions of dollars between 2011 and 2021 to secure more favorable loan terms.
Democrat witch hunt
Trump and his co-defendants have dismissed the allegations and maintain their innocence, accusing James and the prosecution of politically motivated persecution in an attempt to harm Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. James later increased her requested penalty to $370 million.
Judge finds Trump liable for fraud
In September 2023, Judge Engoron, who is overseeing the case, ruled that the defendants were liable for committing fraud. The case is now focused on the severity of Trump’s punishment. Engoron is set to rule on how much will be paid in damages and may grant James’s request that former President Trump be barred for life from doing business in New York.
Let Trump speak
On January 11, both sides presented their closing arguments. Despite having previously ruled that the former president would not be allowed to speak during the defense’s closing arguments, Engoron later relented to a request from Trump’s attorney, Christopher Kise.
Trump took the opportunity to decry the case as a “political witch hunt,” insisting that he was an “innocent man” before being cut off by the judge.
“This was a political witch hunt; we should receive damages for what they have taken our company through. They have no documents—they have nothing!” MSNBC correspondent Lisa Rubin reported the former president as saying in a post on X. “I am an innocent man. I have been politically persecuted… This statute is vicious.”
Former prosecutor gives his take
During an appearance on MSNBC’s The Saturday Show, Charles Coleman Jr., a former prosecutor for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, praised the judge’s decision to let Trump speak.
Coleman Jr. told host Jonathon Capehart that “what Judge Engoron did in terms of letting [Trump] have a certain amount of space to speak in court was brilliant because he gave him the space to hang himself, and that’s what he did.”
It wasn’t me
The former prosecutor continued: “That’s ultimately what Donald Trump does, and it was smart of Judge Engoron to do that because, in the long run, it’s going to benefit the court…I think the judge understands that Donald Trump is going to do whatever he can to avoid accountability for as long as he can. And any issue that you create that creates the opportunity for appeal, Donald Trump’s going to seize on it.”
According to Coleman Jr., by disallowing the former president from appealing the judge’s decision that barred him from speaking in court, Engoron has caused any future appeals to be sorted “in short order.”
Engoron, who is deciding the case because New York state law doesn’t allow for juries in this kind of lawsuit, said he hoped to have reached a final decision by January 31.
I’ll be back
“Not a promise, not a guarantee, but I’m reasonably confident,” the judge said, adding, “You’ll be hearing from me,” as he left the bench.