New York court employee arrested after ‘yelling out’ for Trump during fraud trial

A woman was placed into a squad car outside New York Superior Court and charged with contempt

Alex Woodward
Thursday 19 October 2023 05:26 BST
Trump appears in courtroom as civil fraud trial continues

A woman identified as an employee of New York’s court system was arrested after approaching the front of a courtroom and calling out for Donald Trump during the 12th day of a civil trial alleging the former president and his business empire fraudulently inflated his net worth and assets for years.

The woman, whose name had not yet been released, “disrupted” the hearing on 18 October after approaching the defence table where Mr Trump was seated with his attorneys, according to a statement from a New York courts spokesperson shared with The Independent.

She began “yelling out to Mr Trump indicating she wanted to assist him,” according to the statement.

New York state court officers escorted her out of New York Superior Court Judge Arthur Engoron’s courtroom on the third floor of the building on Centre Street, and she was placed into a squad car on an adjoining street.

She was charged with contempt of court in the second degree for disrupting a court proceeding, according to a court’s spokesperson. She also has been placed on immediate administration leave pending an investigation and is barred from entering other court facilities until further notice, the statement added.

Earlier on Wednesday, the former president tossed his hands up in frustration and spoke aloud from the defence table to his lawyers, drawing a warning from the judge to “stop commenting” during witness testimony.

A woman was escorted from New York Superior Court and charged with contempt of court on 18 October after briefly interrupting a civil trial stemming from a lawsuit targeting Donald Trump’s business empire.

Mr Trump, now appearing at the trial for a second consecutive day, returned to the courthouse in lower Manhattan on Tuesday as the trial entered its third week, hearing testimony from former Trump Organization executives and accountants, real estate appraisers and others who worked closely with the former president’s chief executives on years of financial statements that are central to the case.

Last month, Judge Engoron granted partial judgment in favour of New York Attorney General Letitia James in her sweeping lawsuit alleging the former president, his adult sons and chief associates fraudulently inflated his wealth and assets to secure lucrative financial benefits.

The judge issued a gag order against Mr Trump earlier this month after his Truth Social posts and courthouse statements aired false claims about a chief clerk. An appellate court judge also rejected the former president’s attempt to halt the trial altogether while he appeals Judge Engoron’s order against his business empire from last month.

Michael Cohen, a star witness for Ms James’s team, was expected to testify this week, drawing speculation that Mr Trump’s appearance was intended as an in-person face-off between the former president and his former attorney. His testimony was postponed due to an unrelated medical procedure.

The frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination has characterised the case, as well as the four criminal cases and an upcoming defamation trial against him, as a Democratic conspiracy to keep him out of office.

During breaks, the former president has raged against the judge, Ms James and his political rivals to news cameras on either side of a hallway directly outside the courtroom, and his campaign has amplified his narrative of political persecution to raise millions of dollars with a flood of daily fundraising messages that mention the trial.

At the base of the steps of the courthouse on Wednesday, Ms James called Mr Trump’s appearances “performative”.

Inside the courtroom, her team accused Mr Trump’s attorneys of performing for the press with a series of combative questions to a former real estate appraiser whose testimony suggested that the former president and his chief associates made up the valuations of his properties at the centre of the case.

Following Doug Larson’s apparently damning testimony one day earlier, attorneys for Mr Trump on Wednesday alleged he committed perjury.

“See what’s happened? The government lied,” the former president said in remarks to reporters outside the courtroom. “They just lie. They didn’t reveal all of the information that they had … They didn’t reveal all the evidence that made me totally innocent of anything that they say.”

Following Mr Larson’s testimony, state attorneys introduced Jack Weisselberg, the son of the Trump Organisation’s longtime chief financial officer, who was convicted last year on separate fraud crimes connected to the business and was recently released from prison.

His son Jack – testifying one week after his father’s moment on the witness stand – arranged financing for Mr Trump while working as an executive at Ladder Capital. Those arrangements involved Mr Trump’s top financial executive working directly with his son who handled financing for some of the most well-known properties in the former president’s real estate portfolio.

Ms James’s lawsuit hasn’t alleged wrongdoing in that relationship, but his testimony and evidence obtained by the attorney general’s office appears to offer a window into the financial dealings of Mr Trump and his associates, including loans for marquee properties Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street.

In one email to different Ladder Capital executives about commercial mortgage-backed securities loans in 2012, Allen Weisselberg wrote that Mr Trump was nervous about Trump Tower rent for one of the tenants, Gucci, becoming public.

“As he tends to embellish from time to time,” he wrote.

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