Judge Fines Donald Trump $9,000 for Violating Criminal Court Gag Order in Social Media Posts

Former President Donald Trump must pay a $9,000 fine for social media outbursts that violated a gag order in his New York criminal case, the judge overseeing the trial ruled Tuesday.

Justice Juan Merchan found that the former president had crossed the line on the order that bars him from making public statements about witnesses and jurors in nine of the 10 instances flagged by prosecutors. He found that one post the New York District Attorney’s office pointed to, which referred to porn star Stormy Daniels and his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen as “sleaze bags,” did not violate the order, the Associated Press reported.

Merchan also warned Trump that he’s willing to jail the presumptive Republican nominee if he continues to violate court orders. Merchan wrote that Trump “is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate continued willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment,” AP reported.

The judge noted that he was limited by law to maximum fines of $1,000 per violation, adding that while that amount “may suffice in most instances to protect the dignity of the judicial system, to compel respect for its mandates and to punish the offender for disobeying a court order, it unfortunately will not achieve the desired result in those instances” where a person held in contempt “can easily afford such a fine.”

He said it would be preferable if he could impose a fine “more commensurate with the wealth” of the person who will pay it, AP reported. “Because this Court is not cloaked with such discretion, it must therefore consider whether in some instances, jail may be a necessary punishment,” the judge wrote.

Merchan issued the order as the first-ever criminal trial of a former president trial was getting ready to resume in Manhattan.

A banker who worked with Cohen was set to continue to testify Tuesday over his role in transferring money to Daniels, the transaction at the center of what prosecutors say was a scheme to influence the 2016 election. Trump is charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal the $130,000 payment in exchange for Daniel’s staying quiet about a sexual rendezvous she claims took place in 2006.

The former president pleaded not guilty and denies ever having sex with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He has complained multiple times that the gag order violates his right to free speech.

Trump was joined in court on Tuesday by his son Eric, the first time a family member appeared at the trial with him.

Separately, Merchan said that the trial will not be in session on May 17, so that Trump may attend his son Barron’s high school graduation.

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