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Judge in Hush Money Case Rules Trump Breached Gag Order, Warns of Potential Jail Sentence

Judge Juan Merchan (Credits: CNN)

On Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan held former President Donald Trump in contempt of court for violating a gag order nine times, fining him $9,000 and warning him that further violations could result in jail time.

The violations stemmed from Trump’s recent posts on Truth Social and his campaign website, which attacked prospective jurors and prosecutors’ expected star witnesses.

The judge’s ruling came after a heated hearing last week between Merchan and Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, with the judge telling Blanche he was “losing all credibility” with the court.

Donald Trump (Credits:

The gag order was put in place to restrict Trump’s speech as the case headed to trial, barring him from making public statements about witnesses, jurors, court staff, and prosecutors.

Trump has regularly railed against his perceived foes in his legal entanglements, leading prosecutors to request the gag order.

The former president is accused of violating the order 10 times in the days leading up to and during jury selection, with most of the posts concerning Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-fixer and personal lawyer who is expected to be a star witness for prosecutors.

Trump has opposed the gag order, maintaining it’s a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and that he’s merely responding to political attacks against him. He has appealed the gag order, but it remains in effect for now.

The judge rejected Trump’s argument that many of the posts at issue were merely reposts of other people and not his own words, finding that the reposts constituted statements of the defendant.

Donald Trump (Credits: The Hollywood Reporter)

Prosecutors have separately accused Trump of violating the gag order an additional four times, with a hearing set for Thursday to discuss those alleged violations.

Trump faces up to $1,000 in fines per violation and could be ordered to spend 30 days in jail if found in contempt. The former president has faced gag orders and fines in his other legal matters, including a $15,000 fine for skirting a judge’s directive in his New York civil fraud trial.

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