POLITICS

Donald Trump appeals $454M judgment in New York civil fraud case

Feb 26, 2024, 10:44 AM | Updated: 1:38 pm

Image: Former President Donald Trump, with lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, attends the cl...

Former President Donald Trump, with lawyers Christopher Kise and Alina Habba, attends the closing arguments in the Trump Organization civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York City on Jan. 11, 2024. (File photo: Shannon Stapleton, Pool photo via AP)

(File photo: Shannon Stapleton, Pool photo via AP)

NEW YORK — Donald Trump has appealed his $454 million New York civil fraud judgment, challenging that he lied about his wealth as he grew the real estate empire that launched him to stardom and the presidency.

The former president’s lawyers filed notices of appeal Monday asking the state’s mid-level appeals court to overturn Judge Arthur Engoron’s Feb. 16 verdict in Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit and reverse staggering penalties that threaten to wipe out Trump’s cash reserves.

Trump’s lawyers wrote in court papers that they’re asking the appeals court to decide whether Engoron “committed errors of law and/or fact” and whether he abused his discretion or “acted in excess” of his jurisdiction.

Trump’s appeal won’t automatically halt enforcement of the judgment.

The Republican presidential front-runner has until March 25 to secure what’s known as a stay, a legal mechanism pausing collection while he appeals. Trump would receive an automatic stay if he puts up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes. Trump’s lawyers could also ask the appeals court to grant a stay without obtaining a bond or with a bond for a lower amount.

Trump’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a reporter’s questions Monday asking if he had posted an appeal bond or if he was in the process of securing one.

In a statement issued through a spokesperson, Trump lawyer Alina Habba addressed only the appeal itself, saying: “We trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious fine and take the necessary steps to restore the public faith in New York’s legal system.”

Messages seeking comment were left with the New York attorney general’s office and a spokesperson for the state’s court system.

Engoron found that Trump, his company and top executives, including his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., schemed for years to deceive banks and insurers by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals. Among other penalties, the judge put strict limitations on the ability of Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, to do business.

The appeal ensures that the legal fight over Trump’s business practices will persist into the thick of the presidential primary season, and likely beyond, as he tries to clinch the Republican presidential nomination in his quest to retake the White House.

If upheld, Engoron’s ruling will force Trump to give up a sizable chunk of his fortune. Engoron ordered Trump to pay $355 million in penalties, but with interest the total has grown to nearly $454 million. That total will increase by nearly $112,000 per day until he pays.

Trump maintains that he is worth several billion dollars and testified last year that he had about $400 million in cash, in addition to properties and other investments. James, a Democrat, told ABC News that if Trump is unable to pay, she will seek to seize some of his assets.

Trump’s appeal was expected. Trump had vowed to appeal and his lawyers had been laying groundwork for months by objecting frequently to Engoron’s handling of the trial.

Trump said Engoron’s decision, the costliest consequence of his recent legal troubles, was “election interference” and “weaponization against a political opponent.” Trump complained he was being punished for “having built a perfect company, great cash, great buildings, great everything.”

Trump’s lawyer Christopher Kise said after the verdict that the former president was confident the appeals court “will ultimately correct the innumerable and catastrophic errors made by a trial court untethered to the law or to reality.”

If the decision stands, Habba said, “it will serve as a signal to every single American that New York is no longer open for business.”

Trump wasn’t able to appeal the decision immediately because the clerk’s office at Engoron’s courthouse had to file paperwork known as a judgment to make it official. That was done on Friday, starting a 30-day window for Trump to pay up or file an appeal and seek a stay.

If Trump were to pay the penalty at this stage instead of obtaining a stay, the money would be held in a court escrow account while the appeal plays out. If the court overturns the verdict, the money would be returned to Trump.

During the trial, Trump’s lawyers accused Engoron of “tangible and overwhelming” bias. They’ve also objected to the legal mechanics of James’ lawsuit. Trump contends the law she sued him under is a consumer-protection statute that’s normally used to rein in businesses that rip off customers.

Trump’s lawyers have already gone to the Appellate Division at least 10 times to challenge Engoron’s prior rulings, including during the trial in an unsuccessful bid to reverse a gag order and $15,000 in fines for violations after Trump made a disparaging and false social media post about a key court staffer.

Trump’s lawyers have long argued that some of the allegations are barred by the statute of limitations, contending that Engoron failed to comply with an Appellate Division ruling last year that he narrow the scope of the trial to weed out outdated allegations.

The Appellate Division could either uphold Engoron’s verdict, reduce or modify the penalty or overturn the decision entirely. If Trump is unsuccessful at the Appellate Division, he can ask the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to consider taking his case.

The appeal is one of Trump’s many legal challenges. He has been indicted on criminal charges four times in the last year. He is accused in Georgia and Washington, D.C., of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden. In Florida, he is charged with hoarding classified documents.

He is scheduled to go on trial March 25 in Manhattan for falsifying business records related to hush money paid to porn actor Stormy Daniels on his behalf.

In January, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. That’s on top of the $5 million a jury awarded Carroll in a related trial last year.

Politics

Associated Press

Israel hails ‘success’ in blocking Iran’s unprecedented attack. Biden now seeks diplomatic response

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel on Sunday hailed its successful air defenses in the face of an unprecedented attack by Iran, saying it and its allies thwarted 99% of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched toward its territory. But regional tensions remain high, amid fears of further escalation in the event of […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

A jury of his peers: A look at how jury selection will work in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s history-making criminal trial is set to start Monday with a simple but extraordinary procedural step that is vital to American democracy. A group of regular citizens — Trump’s peers, in the eyes of the law — will be chosen to decide whether the former president of the United States […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Utah school board member who questioned a student’s gender loses party nomination for reelection

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A conservative Utah State Board of Education member who faced calls to resign after lawmakers said she bullied a student on social media lost her nomination for reelection Saturday. Natalie Cline needed at least 40% of the delegate votes at the Salt Lake County Republican Convention, but she fell short […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday lauded American forces who helped Israel down “nearly all” of the drones and missiles fired by Iran and vowed to coordinate a global response to Tehran’s unprecedented attack. With regional tensions at their highest since the Israel-Hamas war began six months ago, Biden pledged that American support […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

10 years after armed standoff with federal agents, Bundy cattle are still grazing disputed rangeland

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. (AP) — The words “Revolution is Tradition” stenciled in fresh blue and red paint mark a cement wall in a dry river wash beneath a remote southern Nevada freeway overpass, where armed protesters and federal agents stared each other down through rifle sights 10 years ago. It was just before noon on a […]

24 hours ago

Associated Press

Maine governor signs bill restricting paramilitary training in response to neo-Nazi’s plan

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A bill to restrict paramilitary training in Maine in response to a neo-Nazi who wanted to create a training center for a “blood tribe” was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills on Friday. The law, which the governor signed without public comment, allows the attorney general to file for […]

1 day ago

Donald Trump appeals $454M judgment in New York civil fraud case