Judge Engoron’s ‘Brilliant’ Move in Trump Trial Praised by Ex-Prosecutor

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Judge Arthur Engoron’s recent decision in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial has been hailed as a “brilliant” maneuver by former prosecutor Charles Coleman Jr. on Saturday.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has sued former President Trump, his adult sons, and the Trump Organization for $370 million, accusing them of frequently inflating Trump’s own net worth and the value of his assets by billions of dollars from 2011 to 2021 to secure better deals and loans. James’ lawsuit initially sought $250 million in damages. Trump and his family have dismissed the accusations and maintained their innocence, accusing prosecutors of being politically motivated and attempting to harm Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

In September 2023, Engoron, who is overseeing the case, ruled that Trump and the other defendants were liable for committing fraud, with the case becoming focused on the severity of punishment that they will face. The judge is set to rule on how much will be owed in damages, and may permanently bar Trump and his associates from doing business in New York, as James has called for.

On Thursday, both sides in the case presented their closing arguments. Despite having previously decided that Trump would not be permitted to speak during this portion of the trial, Engoron later relented to a request from the former president’s lawyer, Christopher Kise. Trump then decried the case as a “political witch hunt” and insisted that he was an “innocent man” before being cut off by Engoron.

Former President Donald Trump is seen outside of the courthouse for his New York civil fraud trial. A former prosecutor hailed Judge Arthur Engoron’s decision to let Trump speak during the closing arguments of the trial as a “brilliant” move.
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

“This was a political witch hunt; we should receive damages for what they have taken our company through. They have no documents—they have nothing!” Trump said, as reported by MSNBC correspondent Lisa Rubin who posted the comments to X, formerly Twitter. “I am an innocent man. I have been politically persecuted…This statute is vicious.”

During an appearance on MSNBC’s The Saturday Show with Jonathan Capehart, Coleman, a former prosecutor for the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and civil rights attorney, hailed Engoron’s decision to let Trump speak on Thursday.

Coleman, an MSNBC legal analyst, explained that “what Judge Engoron did in terms of letting [Trump] have a certain amount of space to speak in court was brilliant, because he gave him the space to hang himself and that’s what he did.”

He continued: “That’s ultimately what Donald Trump does and it was smart of Judge Engoron to do that because, in the long run, it’s going to benefit the court…I think the judge understands that Donald Trump is going to do whatever he can to avoid accountability for as long as he can. And any issue that you create that creates the opportunity for appeal, Donald Trump’s going to seize on it.”

According to Coleman, by depriving Trump of the ability to argue that he was not allowed to speak in court, Engoron has made it so that any appeals in the future should be sorted “in short order.”

Newsweek reached out to Trump’s legal representatives via email for comment.