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Judge again dismisses Donald Trump's attempt to throw out civil fraud trial

A New York judge on Monday dismissed former U.S. President Donald Trump's latest attempt to have a $250 million civil fraud case filed against him thrown out. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI
A New York judge on Monday dismissed former U.S. President Donald Trump's latest attempt to have a $250 million civil fraud case filed against him thrown out. Photo by Louis Lanzano/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 19 (UPI) -- A New York judge overseeing Donald Trump's civil fraud trial has denied the former president's latest motion to have the state's case thrown out in a scathing rebuke of his defense.

Trump is on trial in a $250 million civil lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James who accuses him and his Trump Organization of committing financial fraud by inflating their net worth by more than $2 billion by overvaluing their property in order secure loans with favorable conditions.

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Trump has four times asked the judge to throw out the case, with each time being denied, and his defense filed a fifth motion for a directed verdict late last week as James rested her case. Closing arguments are to begin Jan. 11.

On Monday, Judge Arthur Engoron not only ruled against Trump's request but detailed his defenses' "fatal flaws," the "most glaring" of which would be to assume testimony from his expert accounting witnesses, Eli Bartov and Jason Flemmons, "is true and accurate."

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"Bartov is a tenured professor, but all that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say," Engoron wrote in his ruling.

Engoron stated that there were numerous errors in Trump's financial statements and by attempting to justify each one, "Prof. Bartov lost all credibility."

Engoron also dismissed Trump's counsel's argument that if a loan is closed prior the statute of limitations than any future relevant filings that contain related misstatements are outside the court's purview. He said this is proven false not only by law but common sense.

"Closing is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for future misstatements," he said. "All that §63(12) requires is a false statement used in business; the subject financial statements fit that definition 'to a T.'"

He continued that Trump's defense that his lenders did not incur damages and that they were "happy" with the agreements fall shorts in that ill-gotten gains are accrued when a client pays a lower interest rate on a loan by overstating the value of assets.

"The lender has lost money, although the loss is not out-of-pocket, and so the loss is not what the law traditionally things of as damages," he said. "That the instant lenders made millions of dollars and were happy with the transactions does not mean that they were not damaged by lending at lower interest rates than they otherwise would have."

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And he rejected the Trump defense that valuations are subjective by stating that is essentially correct, "but a lie is still a lie."

"Valuing occupied residences as if vacant, valuing restricted land as if unrestricted, valuing an apartment as if it were triple its actual size, valuing property many times the amount of concealed appraisals, valuing planned buildings as if completed and read to rent, valuing gold courses with brand premium while claiming not to, and valuing restricted funds as cash, are not subjective differences of opinion, they are misstatements at best and fraud at worst," he said.

Chris Kise, Trump's attorney in the case, rejected Engoron's ruling in a statement to CNN as a failure to address their argument's legal elements while rejecting "the real facts from the real participants in the real world."

"Based on the decision, it appears the Attorney General's burden of proof does not matter, the testimony from the involved bankers does not matter, application of governing accounting standards does not matter, the express language of the financial statements does not matter, and the ruling from the First Department does not matter," Kise said.

"All that seems to matter is arriving at a predetermined destination."

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