In blow to political rights, judge rules Trump guilty while denying him a trial

By Terry Evans
October 16, 2023

Defense of constitutional protections remains at the center of the class struggle, as the Democrats and their allies in the liberal media pursue a relentless drive to ruin Donald Trump and his family. They’re determined to prevent him from running for president in 2024 by any means possible, and they consider their assault on free speech just collateral damage. 

In a brazen example, New York State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron ruled the former president and his two sons were guilty of fraud Sept. 26, denying them the right to a trial and tossing aside their right to present evidence in their defense. 

Engoron granted a motion for summary judgment by New York State Attorney General Letitia James in her $250 million civil case against Trump. The judge ruled the former president, his sons Eric and Donald Jr., and two of his employees were guilty on seven counts of making false valuations of their properties in order to acquire loans on more favorable terms. 

Engoron then cancelled the licenses Trump needs to handle real estate in New York and began steps for state authorities to seize his properties and businesses there, including Trump Tower. The judge’s actions make a mockery of the Constitution’s guarantee of the right to a trial. 

The judge made the ruling despite the fact that none of the financial institutions or individuals Trump dealt with say there was anything misleading about the transactions they carried out. None claim to be the victim of a “crime.” In fact, they all profited from the dealings. 

While Trump has the right to appeal Engoron’s ruling, the judge and James are driving ahead with the court proceeding based on his ruling. At issue now is the scope of the penalties to be imposed. 

Engoron made his ruling despite an appellate panel decision in June that the statute of limitations appears to have run out on a number of the charges. The panel ordered Engoron to follow through on its findings. 

But he refused to do so, and then rejected Trump’s motion to delay the trial until a decision was made on what charges he actually faces. 

A centerpiece of Engoron’s ruling is based on a Palm Beach County tax assessor who valued Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property at $18 million, well below Trump’s estimate of between $400 million and $600 million. But Palm Beach real estate broker Lee Allen Schulz and other property dealers there challenged the judge’s figures. 

“I spoke with my appraisers,” Schulz told the press, and “they thought the $18 million was ridiculous.” The property, which was valued by Forbes magazine at $160 million in 2018, has 128 rooms, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom, tennis courts, a pool and beachfront on two sides of the island. 

The judge was so embarrassed by the publicity ridiculing his decision that he started the Oct. 2 trial by saying, “Please, press, stop saying that I valued it at $18 million.” 

So Trump has been found guilty of a “crime” in which there is no victim and for which a higher court says the statute of limitations has likely passed. And all without  the right to a trial.

Millions of working people know from experience that the right to trial by jury and the presumption of innocence are under constant threat. Bully prosecutors and compliant judges press plea bargain deals on workers by threatening more severe sentences if a case goes to trial. Over 90% of criminal prosecutions end with a plea bargain  today. Trump refused to cop a plea, but was denied the right to a trial anyway. 

For good measure, Engoron sanctioned some of Trump’s lawyers $7,500 each, claiming they continued to use arguments that Engoron had rejected. 

Democrats tear up constitutional rights

To try and rig the 2024 election for Biden, Democratic Party prosecutors are pursuing four criminal cases against Trump. This includes a racketeering case brought by Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis against the former president and 18 others. RICO statutes have been used to go after and frame up trade unionists for decades. 

Willis claims that in these kind of conspiracy cases, she “does not have to prove all, or indeed any, overt acts attributed to the defendant to achieve a conviction.” 

Under RICO laws, she says, what is being charged is not an “overt act but instead the defendant’s ‘alleged association with the conspiracy.’” By making the charge so vague, she makes it almost impossible for the accused to defend themselves, dealing blows to their basic rights and the rights of working people. 

Two of the three other cases against Trump involve federal prosecutions being pursued by Justice Department special prosecutor Jack Smith, one in Florida and one in Washington, D.C.

The fourth case is the continuing prosecution by New York DA Alvin Bragg, charging Trump with falsifying business records to cover up other crimes he isn’t charged with. Bragg insists New York law doesn’t require him to specify them. 

Smith’s Washington, D.C., prosecution is in the news because he is demanding Judge Tanya Chutkan slap a gag order on Trump, preventing the presidential candidate from speaking publicly about the judge, prosecutors, jury pool or witnesses against him. 

Even the Trump-hating New York Times, which normally has no qualms in deep-sixing the Constitution to target him, has to admit Smith’s motion “presents a thorny conflict” involving “his First Amendment rights.” 

Defending political freedoms is vital, whether it’s a capitalist politician like Trump, or a worker, who is under attack. Safeguarding rights is crucial for building unions, campaigning against Washington’s embargo of Cuba and protesting its preparations for more wars. These protections are used whenever workers speak out on political questions in our own class interests.