Judge Expands Gag Order Against Trump in NY Hush Money Case

Judge Expands Gag Order Against Trump in NY Hush Money Case
Former President Donald Trump arrives at 40 Wall Street in New York City after his court hearing to determine the date of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to an alleged extramarital affair, on March 25, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

The judge overseeing the Manhattan district attorney’s “hush money” case against former President Donald Trump has approved a request to expand a recently imposed gag order on the president.

The decision came late Monday and gags President Trump from public discussion of family members of the court, the family members of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and all others named in the order, including jurors, potential jurors, witnesses, court staff, counsel, and their families.

The order does not bar comments about the judge himself or Mr. Bragg, an elected Democrat.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan wrote in his 5-page ruling. “It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game,’ for Defendant’s vitriol.”

While the judge noted that courts are “understandably concerned” about limiting defendants’ freedom of speech, particularly for public figures, “The circumstances of the instant matter, however, are different,” he wrote. “The conventional ‘David vs. Goliath’ roles are no longer in play as demonstrated by the singular power defendant’s words have on countless others.”

He cited in his ruling arguments from the prosecution that “multiple potential witnesses have already raised grave concerns […] about their own safety and that of their family members should they appear as witnesses against the defendant.” The judge wrote that those fears “undoubtedly interfere” with the proceedings.

“The average observer, must now, after hearing defendant’s recent attacks, draw the conclusion that if they become involved in these proceedings, even tangentially, they should worry not only for themselves, but for their loved ones as well,” he added.

Mr. Bragg had petitioned Justice Merchan earlier in the day to expand the gag order to prevent President Trump from referencing family members of individuals involved in the case. The attorney general’s office highlighted comments from President Trump referencing the judge’s daughter as evidence of why the order was needed.

“Defendant’s dangerous, violent, and reprehensible rhetoric fundamentally threatens the integrity of these proceedings and is intended to intimidate witnesses and trial participants alike—including this Court,” state prosecutor Matthew Colangelo wrote in the court filing.

President Trump had made posts mentioning Justice Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, who owns a Democrat political consulting firm. He did not refer to Ms. Merchan by name.

The former president wrote in one post, “Judge Juan Merchan, a very distinguished looking man, is nevertheless a true and certified Trump Hater who suffers from a very serious case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

“In other words, he hates me! His daughter is a senior executive at a Super Liberal Democrat firm that works for Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff, the Democrat National Committee, Senate Majority PAC, and even Crooked Joe Biden.”

In another, he said, “Maybe the Judge is such a hater because his daughter makes money by working to ‘Get Trump.’”

Critics responded by complaining that his posts were attacks on Ms. Merchan and false accusations.

President Trump’s attorneys had pushed back against the request, saying that it would further violate the presumptive Republican nominee’s First Amendment rights. But Judge Merchan ultimately sided with the prosecution.

They are also continuing to seek the recusal of Justice Merchan, citing a conflict of interest, over his daughter’s business, which they say has profited heavily off the prosecution of their client.

Two major Democratic clients of Ms. Merchan raised at least $93 million in political donations in a campaign that mentioned President Trump’s case in their solicitation emails, according to The New York Post.

Justice Merchan declined to recuse himself from the case last August after the defense argued that he was biased for similar reasons, citing that his daughter headed a marketing agency that worked for Democrat candidates, including Vice President Kamala Harris.

The hush money trial is scheduled to start on April 15. It’s the first criminal trial involving the former president. He faces other cases in Washington, Florida, and Georgia.

President Trump faces 91 felony counts in all, and he has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. He has said that the cases are politically motivated attempts to harm his 2024 presidential campaign.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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