NY AG Trump Suit – First of Many Legal Dominoes to Fall? Likely to Trigger Other Similar Civil Actions, Also Criminal Ones
New York Attorney General Is Charging Trump
WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 21, 2022) – The massive civil legal action filed today by New York Attorney General Letitia James charging Donald Trump and his children of flagrantly manipulating property valuations to deceive lenders, insurance brokers and tax authorities could trigger many additional civil as well a criminal actions against him.
Just as the first domino in a row to fall causes the others to begin toppling, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf filed the criminal complaint against Trump, naming three different criminal statutes he allegedly violated in Georgia, which led to the ongoing criminal investigation of the former president in Fulton County.
He also figured out how to bring the successful law suit against Spiro Agnew which forced him to return, with interest, the money he had received in bribes, after the State of Maryland gave up on seeking such recovery.
Here is why the law professor who has been called “a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars,” a “King of Class Action Law Suits,” “Legal Academia’s Instigator in Chief,” “The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry,” and an “Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer’s Trial Lawyer” believes that this civil action will be only the first of many legal actions which will begin to topple Trump.
This action, although civil in nature, will also result in at least two criminal referrals – one to the Justice Department, and the other to the Internal Revenue Service – which will be so detailed, and contain such hard and solid evidence of criminality, that it will be almost unthinkable that the relevant authorities would not have to bring criminal actions.
This civil action, although brought in New York, also involves glaring and dramatic details of alleged criminal fraud in the manipulation of property values in other jurisdictions. This is especially true regarding Florida and Trump’s new residence in Mar-a-Lago.
With this information now being made available publicly, authorities in Florida – unless political considerations preclude it – would have to bring civil as well as criminal actions there. If they fail to do so, political opponents and/or those injured financially by the alleged fraud are likely to do so.
Additional Legal Actions
The massive amounts of documentation and information, including potential testimony of witnesses to the wrongdoing, are likely to open the doors to many additional legal actions.
Also, others who might be involved, and who thereby might themselves face massive financial penalties as well as criminal charges, might as part of plea bargains agree to testify about other criminal actions involving Trump and/or his family members.
While Trump and family members have not been reluctant to “take the fifth” in criminal investigations, doing so in civil cases entails considerable risks.
In civil proceedings, unlike criminal ones, judges will charge juries that they may draw adverse inferences (conclude that the defendant is guilty) from refusals to answer relevant questions.
So others involved, including even a Trump family member, might be forced to provide information, if not testimony, which could be damaging in future civil or criminal proceedings involving the former president.
Finally, as many commentators have pointed out, one of the problems of bringing Trump to trial in other ongoing criminal probes is the need to prove criminal intent; i.e., that he had guilty knowledge and knowingly violated the law.
The hundreds of instances in James’ complaint of instances where Trump very clearly violated the law and did so knowingly would likely create a strong inference that he does so habitually, as a matter of practice, and therefore is likely to have done so in these other instances not involved in the New York complaint.
In short, just as many dominoes may begin falling when only the first one is pushed, James’ civil action may be only the first of many civil and criminal actions to follow, suggests Banzhaf.