By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A New York judge on Friday rejected Donald Trump’s bid for a mistrial in state Attorney General Letitia James’ civil fraud lawsuit against him, after the former U.S. president accused the judge and his law clerk of being politically biased.
Justice Arthur Engoron of the New York state court in Manhattan said he could not “in good conscience” let Trump pursue a mistrial request that was “utterly without merit.”
James has accused Trump, his adult sons, his company, and other defendants of manipulating financial statements, asset values and Trump’s net worth to defraud banks and insurers.
She is seeking $250 million in penalties, and wants Trump banned from New York state real estate business, among other remedies. The trial began in early October.
Trump’s bid for a mistrial had been a long shot, given Engoron’s earlier findings that Trump’s financial statements were fraudulent, and the judge’s defenses of his law clerk.
“As expected, today the court refused to take responsibility for its failure to preside over this case in an impartial and unbiased manner,” Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said in a statement. “We, however, remain undeterred and will continue to fight for our clients’ right to a fair trial.”
JUDGE STANDS BY RULINGS
Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in next November’s election.
His lawyers had taken issue with various rulings in the case by Engoron, a Democrat, and his editing a high school alumni newsletter that linked to articles about the case.
They also objected to political donations made by Engoron’s clerk, Allison Greenfield, claiming they were unethical.
But the judge said he has presided “fairly, impartially, and professionally” throughout the more than three years he has overseen the case, and intended to do so until its conclusion.
“I stand by each and every ruling, and they speak for themselves,” Engoron wrote.
The judge also defended Greenfield, who has been campaigning for a judgeship, saying state law and ethics guidelines permitted her donations.
He also denied that Greenfield was exerting improper influence, saying his rulings “are mine, and mine alone,” and that there was “absolutely no ‘co-judging’ at play.”
Trump and his lawyers have routinely attacked Engoron and Greenfield, prompting Engoron to place gag orders preventing them from commenting on his staff. Engoron has fined Trump for $15,000 for twice violating his order.
A state appeals court judge on Thursday temporarily put the gag orders on hold, pending review by a five-judge appellate panel.
Trump wasted little time thereafter to attack Greenfield, calling her “politically biased and out of control” on his Truth social platform.
The former president also faces four unrelated federal and state criminal indictments, including two over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He has pleaded not guilty in those cases.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Ismail Shakil; editing by Jasper Ward, Nick Zieminski and Jonathan Oatis)