(TheRedWire.com) – The tension between New York Judge Arthur Engoron and the legal team of former U.S. President Donald Trump was palpable during the opening of Trump’s civil fraud trial, which seeks $250 million and was initiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
On September 26, Judge Engoron concluded that Trump had provided inaccurate financial statements for several years related to the valuation of assets, including his Mar-a-Lago estate and his triplex in Trump Tower, New York.
James’ initial case argues that Trump, alongside his sons and The Trump Organization, doctored business records, issued unreliable financial statements, and participated in insurance fraud and conspiracy. The outcome might require Trump to hand over certain properties and assets to offset liabilities.
Tensions flared in court when Engoron interacted with Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba and Christopher Kise, as noted by reporter Jose Pagliery from The Daily Beast, who was present during the session.
While addressing the court and Trump, Habba emphasized the significance of Trump’s properties, equating them to “Mona Lisa” levels of value. She further speculated that Mar-a-Lago might fetch up to $1 billion if sold. The atmosphere became more heated when she referenced Engoron’s prior judgments and expressed frustration over the lawsuit’s three-year duration.
Habba criticized the introductory statement from Kevin Wallace, an attorney general’s office representative, labeling it as “testimony.” Engoron promptly corrected her.
Engoron also countered her description of the trial as a “witch hunt,” underscoring that the appellate court had supported the case’s legitimacy. In a response, Habba alluded to James’ public remarks outside the courthouse, suggesting they contributed to the ongoing turmoil.
Engoron emphasized the importance of present-day property valuations, remarking, “You can’t evaluate a property’s worth a decade later based on its current value.”
Kise firmly addressed Engoron, stating that the defense deserved a thorough examination of evidence and insights from more experts. He also questioned Engoron’s knowledge of accounting norms.
Kise and other defense team members had previously been penalized $7,500 each by Engoron for making unwarranted comments about Trump’s assets and their assessed values. In one instance, they argued that the size of a property could be perceived differently.
Engoron, previously targeted for removal and litigation by Kise and colleagues, dismissed their comments as fantastical.
He further stated that not probing the allegations first introduced by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in his sworn statement would have been a serious oversight. Engoron clarified that the probe’s foundation wasn’t based on personal bias but was instigated by Cohen’s claims of financial misconduct within the Trump circle.
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