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The judge presiding over former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud case in New York City has issued a ruling following his request for a mistrial.
State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron denied the request in a decision handed down late Friday, according to reports, after Trump’s attorneys argued the judge and his chief law clerk showed an “appearance of bias” against the former president.
In denying the motion, Engoron said that it was “utterly without merit” and would be “futile” to proceed to a full briefing schedule even though state prosecutors “advocated for” it, The Epoch Times reported.
Engoron defended his actions as well as those of his chief law clerk, Allison Greenfield, who had come under scrutiny by the former president over past donations to Democratic candidates.
The Epoch Times reported as well:
The motion seeking a mistrial pointed to a high school newsletter, at which Judge Engoron, in his capacity as a Wheatley School alumnus, works as an editor. The newsletter has publicly posted links in the “newsletter he maintains to articles disparaging parties and counsel.”
The judge denied that this was evidence of bias, stating that his duties with the newsletter don’t affect “my presiding fairly, impartially, and professionally” over the current case.
The newsletter, which began publishing after Judge Engoron established the Wheatley School Alumni Association in 2007, made headlines earlier this month when several prominent conservative social media users posted photos to the newsletter that appear to show the judge shirtless while working out.
“When an online publication mentions a graduate, including myself, I include an excerpt and/or a link, usually both,” Engoron noted in his ruling. “Consequently, I have been the subject of entries concerning this case due to its undeniable newsworthiness.”
“However, I neither wrote nor contributed to any of the articles on which defendants focus, and no reasonable reader could possibly think otherwise,” he added.
As for Greenfield, the defense attorneys’ motion referenced her “partisan political contributions” to candidates and organizations that oppose Trump, which they claimed were “in excess of strict limits” of $500 per year.
In his decision, Engoron pointed out that, considering Greenfield’s previous Democratic candidacy for a civil court judgeship in Manhattan, the regulations allow her to surpass the limits if it pertains to acquiring tickets for political events or contributing to her own campaign.
He also dismissed any suggestion that her presence at political events “sponsored by certain organizations” implied that all positions of and actions taken by those organizations “should be imputed to her, and by proxy, to me.”
Trump’s attorneys also noted Greenfield’s “unprecedented role” in the trial, arguing that Engoron often “pauses to consult with her on the bench” before he “rules on most issues.” He also “receives from her contemporaneous written notes.” That led them to argue she appears to be “co-judging” the trial.
“[M]y rulings are mine, and mine alone. There is absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play,” Engoron said in his ruling, adding that it is within his “absolute discretion” to consult with Greenfield before issuing decisions.
“Accordingly, there is no factual or legal basis for a mistrial based on these allegations against my Principal Law Clerk,” he wrote.
Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said Engoron “refused to take responsibility” for what she alleged was his “failure to preside over this case in an impartial and unbiased manner.”
“We, however, remain undeterred and will continue to fight for our clients’ right to a fair trial,” she added in a statement.
Earlier, Habba ripped New York Attorney General Letitia James, who has attended the trial during some of the proceedings.
“She’s just not that bright. I’m sorry, I have to say it,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe James has a good case. “I’ve seen their case; I’ve seen their lawyers. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”
James is seeking $250 million in alleged damages from Trump and his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as a permanent ban on them from doing any business in the state of New York.
Engoron ruled in September, before the civil fraud trial began, that the former president inflated the value of his businesses and assets to get more favorable loan rates, a claim that Trump denied.