Judge Merchan holds Trump in contempt for violating gag order, threatens jail and imposes $9,000 fine

 May 1, 2024

New York Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order on former President Donald Trump before his criminal trial began last month -- an order that Trump has frequently railed against and was accused of repeatedly violating.

On Tuesday, the judge held Trump in contempt of court for nine purported violations of the gag order, fined him $1,000 for each violation, and even threatened him with potential jail time for any future violations, Breitbart reported.

Merchan's punishment for the former president came in response to accusations from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office that Trump had violated the judge's gag order at least 10 times by posting or reposting to social media and his campaign website commentary that was critical of two likely witnesses for the prosecution as well as the jurors who will decide his guilt or innocence.

Trump fined, threatened with jail

In an eight-page decision and order, Judge Merchan laid out the background of the criminal case, his gag order limiting former President Trump's speech, and the allegations from the prosecution that Trump had repeatedly and willfully violated that order.

The judge ultimately agreed that nine of the 10 Truth Social and campaign website posts submitted by prosecutors as evidence were violations of the gag order, and he rejected the defense team's argument that the posts in question were made in response to "political attacks" against Trump -- a narrow exception to the order's limitations on his free speech.

As to the punishment for those violations, Merchan lamented that state law limited fines for criminal contempt to no more than $1,000 -- which he viewed as insufficient for wealthy defendants like Trump -- and noted that in light of his lack of authority to impose more significant fines, he would be forced to consider that "jail may be a necessary punishment" for future violations.

"Therefore, Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment," the judge wrote.

Merchan added, "ORDERED, that Defendant pay a $1,000 fine for each of the nine violations of this Court’s lawful order by the close of business on Friday, May 3, 2024; and it is further ORDERED that Defendant remove the seven offending posts from Defendant’s Truth Social account and the two offending posts from his campaign website by 2:15pm Tuesday, April 30, 2024."

Highlighted posts taken down; attorneys devise plan to avoid jail

The Hill reported that just before that Tuesday deadline, former President Trump and his team deleted the Truth Social and campaign website posts that were determined to have been made in violation of Judge Merchan's gag order.

Those posts included a since-retracted 2018 statement from porn actress Stormy Daniels that denied the allegations of an extramarital affair with Trump years earlier, multiple attacks on the credibility of Trump's former personal attorney and "serial perjurer" Michael Cohen, and commentary from Fox News host Jesse Watters questioning the partisan leanings and bias of potential jurors.

Rolling Stone reported that as to the judge's threat of possible jail time for future gag order violations, Trump's attorneys have already formulated a plan that they believe will prove successful in keeping their client out from behind bars.

That plan involves filing an emergency motion for an immediate stay of any ordered jail time, which they believe can be obtained before New York works out the "logistical nightmare" of attempting to jail the former president who is accompanied at all times by armed Secret Service agents.

Trump responds with fiery retort

In response to Judge Merchan's decision, former President Trump wrote on Truth Social, "This Judge has taken away my Constitutional Right to FREE SPEECH. I am the only Presidential Candidate in History to be GAGGED. This whole 'Trial' is RIGGED, and by taking away my FREEDOM OF SPEECH, THIS HIGHLY CONFLICTED JUDGE IS RIGGING THE PRESIDENTIAL OF 2024 ELECTION. ELECTION INTERFERENCE!!!"

He also posted a video of comments he made to reporters outside the courtroom, during which he lamented how the trial was keeping him off the campaign trail, by design, and how all of the judges and prosecutors arrayed against him were politically motivated and biased in favor of his opponent, President Joe Biden, who he accused of being behind all of the lawfare he is facing.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
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