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By Sarah May on
 December 18, 2023

Testimony ends in Trump civil fraud trial, closing arguments set for Jan. 11

After months of controversy and courthouse dramatics, testimony in the New York civil fraud trial of Donald Trump concluded last week, but not before the former president's attorneys filed for a directed verdict and also signaled their intent to appeal a ruling on the gag order previously imposed by Judge Arthur Engoron, as ABC News reports.

Once the defense rested in the trial on Friday, lawyers for Trump filed what was their fifth motion for a directed verdict, which, if granted, would end the proceedings immediately due to a lack of evidence presented to support the claims still at issue.

Christopher Kise, an attorney for the former president, informed Engoron of his plan to seek such an outcome, and the filing that was ultimately submitted laid out the basis for the request.

“In sum, there was no fraud, there were no victims, there has simply been no harm or actionable misconduct, and the Court must and should follow the law of the case regarding the scope of the claims at issue,” the filing declared.

Trump's team also took aim at Attorney General Letitia James for pursuing fines in an amount upwards of $400 million for allegedly inflating his net worth and asset values in order to defraud lenders.

“Not a single defense witness supported the notion of any alleged conspiracy, and in fact such testimony refuted fully the existence of the same,” the attorneys asserted.

Trump's lawyers further contended that James had not established that any of the allegedly fraudulent misrepresentations made by the former president and his company would have altered in any material way the deals he entered into with banks.

Given that every one of Trump's prior four requests for directed verdicts have been rejected by Engoron, it likely came as no surprise to his legal team that when attorneys informed the judge of their plan to file yet another, the judge said, “There is no way I am going to grant that. You'd be wasting your time.”

Trump's legal maneuverings at the tail end of the months-long trial did not stop at the directed verdict motion, as his attorneys also indicated their plans to continue their fight against the gag order issued by Engoron earlier in the case, despite, as Reuters noted, an appeals court's rejection of their motion to overturn the restrictions.

On Thursday, the Appellate Division -- the mid-level appeals court in New York -- rejected the former president's bid to upend the aforementioned gag order that prevented him from commenting about court staff including Engoron's principal law clerk, whom Trump had accused of political bias and improper conduct.

Though Engoron claimed that the court had been “inundated” with threats from Trump supporters as a result of his remarks, the former president argued that limitations on his speech were a violation of the First Amendment.

Last weeks' appellate order, in rejecting Trump's claims, said, “Here the gravity of potential harm is small, given that the Gag Order is narrow, limited to prohibiting solely statements regarding the court's staff,” also denying leave to appeal further.

Even so, Trump's attorneys soon filed notice that a request to the Court of Appeals in Albany would be in the offing, though the procedural hurdles and time limitations involved at this point may prove insurmountable, given that closing arguments in the case are now set for Jan. 11, 2024.

Whether either of the Trump team's tactics will move the needle in any appreciable way in this case remains to be seen, but as of now, Engoron's decision as to outstanding claims that he has not already decided in James' favor and penalties to which the former president may be subjected is expected sometime late next month.

Written By:
Sarah May

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