Judge fines DONALD TRUMP $9,000 for violating gag order in hush-money trial

Wednesday, May 1, 2024 - The judge overseeing Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial fined the former U.S. president $9,000 for contempt of court on Tuesday and said he would consider jailing him if he continued to violate a gag order.

In a written order, Justice Juan Merchan said the fine may not be enough to serve as a deterrent for the wealthy businessman-turned-politician and lamented he did not have the authority to impose a higher penalty.

"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," Merchan wrote.

Merchan had imposed the gag order to prevent Trump from criticizing witnesses and others involved in the case.

The fine, $1,000 for each of nine online statements that Merchan said violated the order -- was just short of the $10,000 penalty that prosecutors had requested for posts that insulted likely witnesses and questioned the impartiality of the jury.

Merchan will consider whether to impose further fines for other statements at a hearing on Thursday.

The judge also ordered Trump to remove the statements from his Truth Social account and his campaign website by 2:15 p.m.

Trump has argued that the gag order violates his free speech rights, and his lawyer Todd Blanche told Merchan last week that the statements at issue were responses to political attacks.

Merchan noted that Blanche was unable to provide any evidence that the expected witnesses had attacked Trump before he insulted them.

The $9,000 fine, due by Friday, is a relatively small penalty for Trump, who has already posted $266.6 million in bonds as he appeals civil judgments in two other cases.

Imprisonment, however, would be an unprecedented twist in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

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