(As originally published with sound embedded from the website and additional photos, Mon, October 2nd 2023, 6:37 PM EDT)
NEW YORK (TND) — Former President Donald Trump spent Monday in a New York courtroom as his fraud trial began and, in the end, the defendant claimed a victory because the judge mentioned many of the allegations against him are old, and could violate the statute of limitations.
Trump took Judge Arthur Engoron’s remarks as an “outstanding” development for him.
Engoron ruled last week that Trump was liable for fraud in his business dealings, and the ruling could force Trump to give up New York properties including Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses, and a suburban estate.
The day started with sometimes testy opening statements.
”They were lying year after year after year,” Kevin Wallace, a lawyer in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office, said.
The state’s lawsuit accuses the business mogul-turned-politician and his company of deceiving banks, insurers, and others by misstating his wealth for years in financial statements.
”Disgraceful trial,” he said during a lunch break.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and voluntarily attended the trial that he called a “sham,” a “scam,” a waste of the state’s time, and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.”
”What we have here is an attempt to hurt me in an election,” he said outside court, adding, “I don’t think the people of this country are going to stand for it.”
Trump remains the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential race by far. Far from feeling hurt by the trial, his campaign immediately started fundraising off his appearance in court.
James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.
“No matter how powerful you are, and no matter how much money you think you have, no one is above the law,” she said on her way into the courthouse.
The first witness to testify was Trump’s former long-time accountant, Donald Bender, who described spending 50 to 60 hours a year preparing Trump’s financial statements.
His accounting firm, Mazars LLP, cut ties with Trump last year after James’ office questioned the documents’ reliability.
Trump’s appearance in court is a change from similar trials. He didn’t show up as either a witness or a spectator last year when his company and one of its top executives were convicted of tax fraud. He also missed the civil trial earlier this year in which he was found liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room.
This time, “I wanted to watch this witch hunt myself,” he said outside court.
In a recent court filing, James’ office alleged Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion, but Trump said she and the judge are undervaluing assets such as his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla.
Trump valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times what James considered a more reasonable estimate of its worth.
James also pointed to his three-story Trump Tower penthouse, replete with gold-plated fixtures. She said Trump claimed the property was nearly three times its actual size and worth $327 million, which would be far more than the sale price of any New York City apartment ever.
For their part, Trump and his lawyers maintain that disclaimers on his financial statements made clear the amounts were estimates and that banks would have to perform their own analysis.
Plus, there’s the former president, himself, but Trump isn’t expected to testify for several weeks. According to the judge, this New York fraud trial is expected to last into December.
Donald Trump has been indicted four times since March and faces 91 criminal counts across those cases. He has been formally accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, hoarding classified documents, and falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the allegations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.