Violations of speech ban: New York judge threatens Trump with prison again

The judge in the New York hush money case against Donald Trump has again threatened the former US president with being sent to prison if he continues to violate a ban on speaking. Trump's repeated disregard for these legal guidelines is a “direct attack on the rule of law,” said Judge Juan Merchan on Monday. For now, however, he left Trump with another $1,000 fine.

By order of Judge Merchan, the ex-president is prohibited from making any public statements that concern witnesses, jurors, prosecutors and employees of the court and the public prosecutor's office and that could have an influence on the trial. Last week, Merchan had already found the defendant guilty of violating these requirements in nine cases and therefore imposed fines totaling 9,000 dollars (around 8,350 euros) on him.

On Monday, Merchan found the former president guilty of another violation of the speech ban. He imposed an additional fine of $1,000 for “public comments about the jury and the manner in which it was selected.”

However, the judge also stated that the fines against Trump had so far failed to act as a “deterrent”. That's why he had to consider a prison sentence, although he was clear about the “extent of such a decision” to send a former president to prison, Merchan said.

“As much as I don't want to impose a prison sentence (…), I want you to understand that I will do it,” Merchan warned the defendant of possible further violations of the ban on speech. The judge emphasized: “After all, I have a job to do, and part of that job is to preserve the dignity of the justice system.”

Merchan had already warned the ex-president last week that he could end up in prison if he continued to violate the speech ban.

The court case, which began three weeks ago, revolves around the cover-up of a hush money payment to former porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Trump is accused of concealing the payment of $130,000 (120,000 euros in today's money) by forging business documents. This is the first criminal trial in history against a former US president.

Stormy Daniels was silenced by the hush money payment shortly before the 2016 presidential election about an alleged sex affair that she said she had had with Trump ten years earlier. Trump has denied having sex with the former porn actress.

In addition to the hush money trial, the 77-year-old right-wing populist is also criminally charged in three other cases. Two cases involve his massive attempts to retroactively overturn his election defeat against current President Joe Biden in 2020, and another case involves his taking secret government documents to his private estate in the state of Florida.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all cases. He describes himself as a victim of a politically controlled justice system and the charges as an attempt to prevent him from returning to the White House. The Republican Trump wants to run again against the Democrat Biden in the November election.