Court employee arrested for 'disrupting' Trump NYC fraud trial
Category: News & PoliticsVia: vic-eldred • one month ago • 1 comments
By: Priscilla DeGregory (New York Post)
A New York state court employee was arrested Wednesday after she tried to approach former President Donald Trump — claiming she wanted to help him — during his ongoing civil fraud trial in lower Manhattan, officials said.
The woman, who cops identified as Jenny Hannigan, was charged with contempt of court for disrupting the proceedings in Manhattan Supreme Court just before noon "by standing up and walking towards the front of the courtroom yelling out to Mr. Trump," Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen said.
A Post reporter inside the courtroom at the time did not hear Hannigan yell, but she was caught talking loudly in the hallway after being escorted out.
Hannigan, 37 — of Baldwin, NY — is a secretary for a judge in Queens, according to a courthouse source. No one answered a phone number at an address listed for her there.
Hannigan, wearing a black dress and matching blazer, was stopped by court officers before she could get near Trump, 77, and his attorneys — who were seated at the defense table, Chalfen said in a statement.
"None of the parties were ever in any danger," he said.
When the ex-president left court for the day at around 3:30 p.m. he said he didn't know about the woman's arrest — or the apparent commotion she caused.
A woman was arrested on a contempt of court charge for allegedly disrupting the Trump fraud trial. Steven Hirsch
"Who got arrested? We didn't know anything about it," he told reporters.
Hannigan was first asked to take a seat in the courtroom's gallery before an officer asked to speak with her outside the room around 11:45 a.m.
She entered the media-packed hallway — speaking loudly and saying she was scared — as a group of officers surrounded her, asking her to lower her voice.
After escorting Hannigan downstairs to the first floor, officers cuffed her as she yelled "Help me!" "Save me!" for several minutes, according to a courthouse source.
She allegedly tried to approach Donald Trump and officer him help as trial was underway. Steven Hirsch
Meanwhile, inside the courtroom at 60 Centre Street, testimony by Doug Larson, a real estate appraiser, continued without any major interruption while the drama unfolded outside.
Hannigan was charged with one count of second-degree contempt of court for disrupting the proceeding and was given a desk appearance ticket.
She was placed on administrative leave and barred from state courts buildings pending an investigation of the incident, Chalfen said.
Earlier, Trump had appeared agitated during Larson's testimony - seen muttering to his lawyers, shaking his head and gesturing as the outside appraiser was grilled by Trump's attorneys.
Trump's behavior prompted Kevin Wallace - a lawyer in New York Attorney General Letitia James' office - to object, saying: "Can the defendant please stop commenting during the witness' testimony?"
Justice Arthur Engoron — who is deciding the case, rather than a jury - issued a broad warning to anyone in the courtroom, including Trump and others, to keep quiet "particularly if it's meant to influence the testimony" of a witness.
Trump's lawyers later claimed that Larson had lied on the stand - and Larson was eventually told to leave the room as the attorneys and the judge discussed the claim.
The perjury claim stemmed from the question of whether Larson had worked with Trump Org. controller Jeff McConney, a co-defendant in the case, to value Trump's properties in 2013.
Trump attended the $250 million fraud trial against him for a second day in a row. REUTERS
While questioning Larson, Trump attorney Lazaro Fields accused him of testifying on Tuesday that he hadn't worked with McConney - while producing an email of Larson communicating with McConney at around that time.
"You lied, Mr. Larson, didn't you?" Fields said, raising his voice.
"I did not. That's what I recall," Larson responded.
Trump lawyer Chris Kise then stood up and interjected that Larson should be advised of his Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself - drawing audible groans from the lawyers at the AG's table.
"He perjured himself yesterday, in my opinion," Kise said during the hearing — while the AG's office accused the former president's legal team of amping up the theatrics for the assembled media.
6The woman was a court employee and was banned from court buildings pending an investigation of the incident.Steven Hirsch
"This is a performance for the press sitting behind us, and not a real legal issue," Wallace said after a court officer escorted Larson out of the room.
"This is witness intimidation!" AG counsel Colleen Kelly Faherty shouted.
Both sides continued having a heated discussion after Larson left the room. Kise said that Larson should take a break from testimony to speak with his lawyer about his potential perjury risk.
"Unlike the government, I take those rights seriously," hissed Kise — again drawing groans from the AG's lawyers.
After a few minutes, Engoron ordered Larson to retake the stand — suggesting that "I don't see an inconsistency" in his testimony.
Larson, an executive vice president at real estate company Newmark, testified for the majority of Tuesday as well - the same day Trump made his return to court after attending the first three days of trial two weeks ago.
"My role here is to get witnesses to testify," Engoron said. "If he's perjuring himself, he's perjuring himself. If not, he has nothing to worry about."
Larson told the court that in 2015 he had appraised Trump's 71-story commercial skyscraper at 40 Wall St. in the Financial District.
The AG's office, in its fraud lawsuit, has alleged that the Trump Org overstated the value of the soaring, landmarked property at $735.4 million in 2015 — despite a lender-ordered appraisal tagging it at $540 million.
After Larson wrapped his testimony Wednesday, Jack Weisselberg, the son of former Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg, was called to the witness stand by the AG's office.
The younger Weisselberg testified about a series of loans that he helped provide the real estate company as an executive at lender Ladder Capital while his father was working at Trump Org.
The loans included one used to finance the $25 million Trump University settlement paid out to 6,000 students who said they were duped by the ex-president's now-defunct real estate training program, Weisselberg testified.
All major loans that he worked on with the Trump Org had to be personally approved by the ex-president himself, Weisselberg noted.
The elder Weisselberg testified last week for two days where he attempted to downplay the significance of Trump tripling the value of his Manhattan Trump Tower penthouse triplex.
The dad served jail time and was released early this year after he pleaded guilty for cheating on his taxes while he was employed at Trump's company.
His testimony at a criminal trial also helped the Manhattan District Attorney's Office snag a guilty verdict in its tax fraud case against Trump Org.
Trump told reporters as he left court Wednesday that he "probably" wouldn't be back for trial the following day because of an upcoming golf tournament at his Miami, Fla. golf club.
He's not required to attend the civil trial.
The Trump Golf Doral is hosting the LIV Golf Team Championship Oct. 20-22.
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