Trump loses bid to delay October 2 fraud trial where New York attorney general will try to run him out of state
A judge denied Trump's request for a six-month delay for his October 2 fraud trial in New York.
State Attorney General Letitia James sued Trump, his family, and his business in September.
Her lawsuit seeks to bar the Manhattan-based Trump Organization from doing business in New York.
Donald Trump on Tuesday lost his longshot bid for a six-month delay to an October 2 fraud trial in which New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to drive the former president, his family, and his business out of her state.
State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron told a courtroom full of attorneys that he will hold firm to his original October 2 trial date for James' lawsuit, which, if successful, would result in her pulling the company's corporate charter, a move that would bar the former president's Manhattan-based real-estate and golf-resort company from doing business in New York.
"This case is not that complicated. It's complex, but it's not complicated," the judge said of the lawsuit, which also seeks a $250 million penalty.
The suit alleges that Trump repeatedly deceived banks, insurers, and tax authorities by lying about the value of his assets in annual statements of worth called "Statements of Financial Condition."
"Essentially, it all boils down to whether the Statements of Financial Condition are true or false," Engoron told the parties in sticking to his trial date.
"The rest, as Hillel has said, is all commentary," the judge added, referring to a Talmudic story.
Engoron also repeated on Tuesday the phrase that he uttered after first setting the firm date, when he warned attorneys for Trump and the lawsuit's 15 co-defendants — including his three eldest children, some of its top executives, and multiple separate corporate entities — that the case will go on trial on October 2 "come hell or high water."
The judge did budge, however, on the number of witnesses the defense teams can demand sit for sworn pre-trial depositions.
Before Tuesday, the state and the defense were both limited to 10 witnesses — and that was 10 total for the combined defense teams.
On Tuesday, the judge said the defense can now depose 20 witnesses in total.
That number is lower than the 30 the defense requested. But it was higher than 15, the number lawyers for the attorney general's side had said would be fair.
The judge declined to move the trial date even though lawyers for Trump said Tuesday that even just a three-week delay would be useful. Lawyers for James had themselves grudgingly conceded they'd agree to an extension of two weeks.
"I appreciate that both sides are only asking for a few weeks," the judge said. "But you have six months" until the trial, he said.
"I don't want to move that trial date, not because I've said that," he said, referring to his "hell or high water" threat, "but because I don't think it's necessary.
"You can move anything else," he added. "I don't want to move that trial date."
In fighting Tuesday for more time and more deposition witnesses, Reid M. Figel, a lawyer for Ivanka Trump, who is one of the named defendants, elaborated on the coming defense.
A property's value is "highly subjective," Figel said, and valuations "vary widely" over time, and sometimes suddenly.
"That's how developers make money," the lawyer said. "They buy low and sell high."
But the attorney general alleges a decade-long pattern of fraudulent valuations that go beyond the subjective, one of James' lawyers said.
"Our complaint shows that there were objective facts that are false," assistant attorney general Kevin Wallace told the judge.
Those include Trump allegedly falsely inflating the value of his Trump Tower penthouse in Manhattan by tens of millions of dollars by claiming it was three times its actual size.
Figel, however, countered that it's not enough to show there were misstatements in the former president's financial statements.
"They have to be materially false in a way that mattered to the transaction," Figel said.
The judge also asked the attorney general's side if there was any way the case could be streamlined.
"Do you need to sue all 16 of these entities?" the judge said of the defendants. Trimming a few out of the lawsuit "would make it a lot simpler," he added. The attorney general's side promised to consider that possibility.
Also at the hearing, attorney Alina Habba, who is representing several of the Trump defendants, said she has been having a difficult time communicating with one in particular, former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.
The former finance chief still has a month left to go on his five-month sentence for running a decade-long payroll tax-dodge scheme at the company.
"It's actually taking me two weeks just to get ahold of him by phone," Habba said. The judge's law clerk, Allison Greenfield, told Habba to send in, for Egoron's approval, a proposed judges' order requiring the Department of Correction to make Weisselberg more accessible to his lawyers.
Tuesday's court appearance was delayed a half hour when court officers briefly shut down the building after a bomb threat was called in to 911, state court spokesman Lucian Chalfen said.
Engoron's courtroom was not targeted, a court source told Insider.
The judge delayed the hearing until the building was reopened, and reporters for several news outlets could get inside.
"This case generates significant press," the judge said. "They are the eyes and ears of the public and I firmly believe in transparency."
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