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Donald Trump attends civil business fraud trial as spectator

Former President Donald Trump returned to his business fraud trial at the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI
1 of 4 | Former President Donald Trump returned to his business fraud trial at the New York State Supreme Court on Thursday. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 7 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump appeared in court Thursday to sit in on his civil business fraud trial in New York.

Trump is scheduled to testify as the final defense witness on Monday but was voluntarily present in the courtroom Thursday as the defense questioned New York University accounting professor Eli Bartov about property valuations in Trump's financial statements.

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Bartov testified that there was "no evidence whatsoever for accounting fraud" and statements of financial condition "were not materially misstated."

Judge Arthur Engoron has already partially approved a summary motion from New York Attorney General Letitia James, ruling that Trump, his sons and his business committed fraud over many years.

The trial is to settle other claims in the case and will help determine the penalties to be assessed against Trump. James is seeking at least $250 million as a penalty for the fraud.

Ahead of his Thursday appearance as a spectator in the courtroom, Trump criticized the case as a "witch hunt" that was "decided against me before it even started" on his social media platform Truth Social.

Last week, a New York Supreme Court appellate panel reinstated a limited gag order that bars Trump from attacking Engoron's law clerk and staff.

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Engoron warned the trial parties he will vigorously enforce the gag order, which does not bar Trump from comments about the judge himself or about James.

His staff and the judge himself have received hundreds of death threats and other threatening messages that increase when Trump uses social media to attack judicial staff.

According to Lisa Evans, Deputy Counsel in the Office of Court Administration of the State of New York the threats triggered by Trump's posts pose a serious and ongoing security risk for the judge, his staff and his family.

James rested the state's case Nov. 8, expressing confidence in the evidence presented.

The Trump civil business fraud trial will end with closing arguments in the new year as Engoron decides the remaining issues and the punishment.

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