United States

Judge Finds Trump Guilty Of Criminal Contempt In Hush Money Trial, Violating Gag Order: Fined And Warned

Former President Donald Trump has been found guilty of criminal contempt for violating a gag order in his hush money trial, facing fines and a warning of potential incarceration from Judge Juan Merchan.

Donald Trump Found Guilty of Criminal Contempt for Violating a Gag Order Photo: AP

On Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan, overseeing Donald Trump's hush money case, found the former president guilty of criminal contempt due to several posts on Truth Social. These posts were deemed to violate a gag order prohibiting attacks on jurors and witnesses. Merchan ruled that Trump committed nine violations, each carrying a $1,000 fine. Additionally, Merchan warned Trump against further violations, stating "if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances," he would impose "an incarceratory punishment."

The gag order prohibits Trump from "making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses concerning their potential participation in the investigation or in this criminal proceeding," and "public statements about any prospective juror or any juror."

Merchan had expressed dissatisfaction with the defense's arguments earlier on April 23, stating that Trump's attorney was "losing all credibility" by suggesting Trump was exercising caution to comply with the order.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office accused Trump of violating the April 1 order at least 10 times. Examples included calling expected witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels "sleaze bags" and sharing a quote implying deception by potential jurors. The DA sought the maximum $1000 fine for each violation and requested the removal of the posts. They also asked for a warning that future violations could result in additional fines and up to 30 days in jail.

During a hearing on April 23, prosecutor Chris Conroy suggested that Trump “seems to be angling” incarceration for political purposes.

Trump's legal team argued that the former president did not intentionally violate the order but was merely responding to what they termed as a "barrage of political attacks." However, when pressed by the judge, Trump's attorney Todd Blanche struggled to provide specific examples of these attacks. The judge expressed frustration, stating, "I keep asking you over and over to give me an example and I’m not getting an answer."

Previously, Trump attorney Emil Bove contended that some posts were reactions to comments made by Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, while others were reposts from various sources, which he claimed did not breach the gag order. When asked by Merchan to provide legal precedent to support this argument, Blanche admitted he did not have any, stating, "It's just common sense, your Honor."

Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records relating to his reimbursement to Cohen for the lawyer's payment to Daniels during the final days of the 2016 campaign. Daniels alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, an allegation he denies. If convicted, Trump could face up to four years in prison.