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Trump urges judge not to impose gag order in NY criminal hush money case

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LA Post: Trump urges judge not to impose gag order in NY criminal hush money case
Reuters
Luc Cohen
March 04, 2024

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donald Trump on Monday asked a judge to reject a gag order request from prosecutors in the former president's upcoming New York criminal trial involving hush money paid to a porn star, arguing such an order would infringe on his right to free speech.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, which last year charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up the payment, asked Justice Juan Merchan last month to bar Trump from making public comments about witnesses or court staff.

The prosecutors noted Trump's "longstanding history of attacking witnesses, investigators, prosecutors, judges and others involved in legal proceedings against him."

Trump, the likely Republican candidate in the Nov. 5 U.S. presidential election, is scheduled to go on trial in state court in Manhattan starting on March 25, in one of four state or federal criminal cases against him. He has pleaded not guilty.

He is accused of falsifying business records to cover his lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to keep her silent about a sexual encounter she said she had with Trump a decade earlier. He has denied any such relationship.

Trump is cruising toward the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in November.

"American voters have the First Amendment right to hear President Trump's uncensored voice on all issues that relate to this case," Trump's lawyers wrote.

Judges may impose gag orders - which restrict defendants or others involved in court cases from speaking publicly about certain aspects of legal proceedings - to try to prevent intimidation of witnesses or jurors, or to protect court staff from threats.

The measures Bragg requested are similar to restrictions a federal judge in Washington imposed last year in Trump's criminal case on charges involving his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden.

In a civil fraud case, a New York state judge fined Trump a total of $15,000 for twice violating a gag order barring him from publicly talking about court staff.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)

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