Judge fines Trump after 10th contempt of court as former president is told further violations could mean jail

Donald Trump in court. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump in court. (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The judge in Donald Trump's criminal trial has fined him $1,000 and held him in contempt of court for a 10th time while warning him continued violations could land him in jail.

Justice Juan Merchan said the nine $1,000 fines he had imposed on Trump for breaching a gag order banning him from making comments on jurors had not proved to be deterrent.

Justice Merchan said he considered jail time “truly the last resort” as he did not want to further disrupt to the trial, which is concerned with alleged payments made by Trump over to try to ‘hush up’ claims over sexual behaviour.

He also pointed to the potential upheaval to the political process ahead on an election as well as the the logistical headache of imprisoning an ex-president with a lifetime Secret Service detail.

But he said Trump’s “continued, wilful” violations of the gag order amounted to a “direct attack on the rule of law.”

He told the court: “I do not want to impose a jail sanction and have done everything I can to avoid doing so. But I will if necessary,”

New York law allows fines of up to $1,000 or jail time of up to 30 days for violating a court-imposed gag order.

Merchan imposed a $1,000 fine on Monday for an April 22 broadcast interview in which the Republican former president said: "That jury was picked so fast - 95% Democrats. The area's mostly all Democrat."

He found that other statements flagged by prosecutors that mentioned witnesses Michael Cohen and David Pecker did not violate the order.

Last week Merchan fined Trump $9,000 for nine social media posts that he ruled had violated the gag order.

Merchan spoke while Trump sat at the defendant's table in the New York courtroom in the first criminal trial of a former US president.

Trump's criminal hush money trial, now in its 12th day, has featured testimony from a top aide and a former tabloid publisher about efforts during his first presidential bid to avert stories of unflattering sexual behaviour being made public.