Trump fined for violating gag order in New York hush-money trial

Trump fined for violating gag order in New York hush-money trial
Trump fined for violating gag order in New York hush-money trial

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW YORK — A New York judge has found that former US President Donald Trump violated the gag order imposed upon him in his criminal hush-money trial.

Justice Juan Merchan announced Tuesday that he was fining Trump $9,000 (£7,100), $1,000 for each violation.

The order bars Trump from attacking court staff or their families as well as witnesses and jurors.

Prosecutors said Trump violated the order 10 times. Trump says the order breaches his free speech rights.

Justice Merchan sided with prosecutors for all but one of the 10 alleged violations. The former president faces another hearing on Thursday over four other instances where prosecutors say he violated the order.

Justice Merchan placed Trump under a gag order in late March, and expanded it a week later after Trump attacked the judge's daughter on Truth Social.

Prosecutors argued that Mr Trump continued to "wilfully and flagrantly" violate the order during the trial.

They had asked the judge to hold Trump in contempt, issue fines up to $1,000 per violation, force him to delete the posts from his Truth Social platform and his campaign website, and issue a stern warning that further violations could lead to imprisonment.

In court filings, they cited a Truth Social post referring to Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, both likely witnesses, as "two sleaze bags".

Another Truth Social post claimed "undercover Liberal Activists" were trying to sneak on to the jury.

In another instance, they said that Trump had shared articles that disparaged Cohen.

"He knows about the order, he knows what he's not allowed to do, but he does it anyway," prosecutor Christopher Conroy told the court on Tuesday during a hearing over the violations.

Todd Blanche, Trump's attorney, faced sharp questioning from Justice Merchan when he tried to argue that Trump did not know he was violating the order.

Blanche argued that his client had "very carefully" tried to comply with the rules.

But Justice Merchan responded that Blanche was "losing all credibility with the court".

After court adjourned, Trump called the gag order a "disgrace" and expressed frustration that he had to "sit back" while other people "talk about me".

"I'm not allowed to defend myself," he said.

Trump has used social media as a key part of his defence strategy in the court of public opinion.

Judges overseeing different Trump cases, such as his New York civil fraud trial and his federal election interference case, have placed restrictions on Trump.

In his amended gag order, Justice Merchan acknowledged that Trump had the "constitutional right to speak to the American voters freely, and to defend himself publicly".

Justice Merchan said, however, attacks on people involved in the case "serve no legitimate purpose". — BBC

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