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Wednesday, July 3, 2024 | Back issues
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Manhattan DA cites threats in cautioning judge to keep gag order in Trump’s hush-money case

Prosecutors said there is "a critical need” to protect the Manhattan jurors who convicted Trump from attacks by the former president and his devotees.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Citing a torrent of violent threats and inflammatory rhetoric, New York City prosecutors asked the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s hush-money case to preserve the gag order imposed on the former president during his historic criminal trial.

Prosecutors pointed to online posts threatening members of the district attorney's office that “We will kill you all” and “Your life is done.” There were also bomb threats at the homes of two people involved in the case; a threatening post disclosing a district attorney employee's address; and a post with sniper sights on people close to the case or their family members, according to prosecutors.

Earlier this month, Trump’s lawyers asked New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan to end the order, claiming that the prohibition on his public political statements interferes with Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign. On Tuesday, New York’s highest court declined to hear Trump’s appeal of the gag order in his criminal hush-money case.

Three weeks ahead of Trump’s July 11 sentencing on 34 felony counts for falsifying business records, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg urged Merchan in a 10-page memo to keep in place most of the order's provisions.

Trump is barred from making or directing others to make public statements about jurors, prosecutors aside from Bragg, Manhattan court and district attorney staff, and their families. Bragg and Merchan are excluded from the order.

“Defendant is wrong to claim that any public interest in protecting jurors expires with the end of the trial,” Bragg’s office wrote. “Moreover, since the verdict in this case, defendant has not exempted the jurors from his alarming rhetoric that he would have ‘every right’ to seek retribution as president against the participants in this trial as a consequence of his conviction because ‘sometimes revenge can be justified.’”

The prosecutors noted that Trump boasted about the reach and impact of his invective, confessing in a recent social media post, “When I put out a statement it is SPREAD all over the place, fast and furious. EVERYBODY SEEMS TO GET WHATEVER I HAVE TO SAY, AND QUICKLY.”

The prosecutors said, “There thus remains a critical need to protect the jurors in this case from attacks by defendant and those he inspires to action.”

The Manhattan prosecutors consent to lifting the narrow prohibition on Trump making statements about trial witnesses, like former fixer-turned-foe Michael Cohen, since the trial is over.

“The need for such protection persisted throughout the trial, since this court could at any time have allowed the people to recall witnesses,” Bragg’s office wrote in the memo. “Now that the jury has delivered a verdict, however, the compelling interest in protecting the witnesses’ ability to testify without interference is no longer present.”

Bragg’s office noted in the filing that they may request Trump's gag order remain in place even after the July sentencing, while he appeals his conviction.

The document includes a pair of affidavits from a former head of Bragg’s security detail who works with the New York Police Department’s Threat Assessment & Protection Unit within the Intelligence Bureau. which demonstrated an increase in threats against the district attorney since Trump’s indictment was announced in March 2023.

Before the case went to trial this in April, Merchan imposed the gag order prohibiting Trump from “making or directing others to make public statements about known or reasonably foreseeable witnesses,” as well as “any prospective juror or any juror” in the proceeding.

Trump launched several unsuccessful efforts to drop the gag order, including a last-ditch attempt in New York’s Appellate Division, where his lawyers argued that the order was reason enough to delay the trial altogether.

Merchan later expanded the order to include his own family members and those of prosecutors after Trump published a barrage of antagonistic Truth Social posts attacking the judge’s daughter for her career as a political consultant.

During the trial, Trump was held in contempt of court for violating the order 10 times. Merchan fined Trump $1,000 per infraction and even threatened him with jail time after the former president continued to defy court orders.

“It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent,” Merchan said in May. “Therefore, going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction if recommended.”

Trump was the first president in American history to be charged, and then convicted, of a crime. A Manhattan jury found him guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records on May 30. The jury found that Trump broke the law when he manipulated documents to cover up a scheme to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

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Categories / Criminal, First Amendment, Politics

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