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Trump held in contempt, threatened with future jail time

Former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Supreme Court on Oct. 24, 2023, during his civil fraud trial. (Luiz C. Ribeiro/New York Daily News/TNS)
May 01, 2024

New York Judge Juan Merchan held former President Donald Trump in contempt of court on Tuesday and fined the former president $9,000 for violating a gag order in Trump’s criminal hush money trial. The New York judge warned that future violations could be punished with “incarceratory punishment.”

According to CBS News, Merchan announced his ruling from the bench on Tuesday and presented a written order. The New York judge ruled that Trump violated a gag order that prevents the former president from criticizing witnesses, jurors, and other individuals in the hush money payment case.

Merchan claimed Trump “violated the Order by making social media posts about known witnesses pertaining to their participation in this criminal proceeding and by making public statements about jurors in this criminal proceeding.”

CBS News reported that the former president was fined $1,000 for each of Trump’s Truth Social and 2024 campaign website posts that Merchan considered as violations of the gag order. While prosecutors had previously flagged 10 of Trump’s posts as potential violations of the gag order, Merchan determined that the former president had violated the gag order in nine different posts.

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In Tuesday’s written order, Merchan wrote that New York law prevented him from imposing a fine exceeding $1,000 per violation of the gag order. Merchan warned that the $1,000 limit “unfortunately will not achieve the desired result in those instances where the [defendant] can easily afford such a fine.”

While Merchan suggested that a higher fine could be appropriate for defendants who can easily afford the $1,000 fine, he acknowledged that New York law currently does not allow him to implement a higher financial penalty. As a result, the New York judge said the court “must therefore consider whether in some instances, jail may be a necessary punishment.”

Addressing Trump’s gag order violations, Merchan added, “Defendant is hereby warned that the Court will not tolerate willful violations of its lawful orders and that if necessary and appropriate under the circumstances, it will impose an incarceratory punishment.”