The judge overseeing former president Donald Trump’s high-stakes civil business fraud trial severely questioned a crucial expert defense witness, who implied that his over $900,000 fee impacted his testimony.
Eli Bartov, an accounting professor at New York University, told CNBC that he was “shocked” by the judge’s comments and denied that the money influenced his evaluation.
In his decision to deny the defendants’ most recent motion for a directed verdict in the $250 million lawsuit, Judge Arthur Engoron of the Manhattan Supreme Court lambasted Bartov on Monday evening.
Engoron stated in the three-page verdict that although Bartov is a tenured professor, his testimony only indicates that experts will say anything for a million or so dollars.
One side usually pays an expert to testify on their behalf in litigation, but the other side, or the judge in this instance, might use the payment as evidence of the expert’s bias.
According to Engoron, “the most glaring flaw” in the defendants’ attempt to dismiss the case due to insufficient evidence is their belief that the tests conducted by their experts “is true and accurate, or at least that the Court, as the trier of fact will accept it as true and accurate.”
The judge penned the ruling: “The financial statements at the heart of the case were accurate in every respect,” which was Bartov’s “overarching point.”
Nevertheless, Engoron made it clear that he had discovered the financial records “contained numerous obvious errors” prior to the trial even starting. The credibility of Professor Bartov was severely damaged as he relentlessly sought to defend every false statement, according to Engoron’s writing.
According to Bartov, Engoron’s account of his testimony was “totally mischaracterized.”
The valuation of Trump’s triplex unit in Manhattan’s Trump Tower was one of the mistakes he stated was admitted in his testimony on the financial documents.
However, he claimed that those mistakes were accidental and not dishonest.
“The judge’s mischaracterization of my testimony in this way is shocking,” Bartov stated.
Almost three times the actual size of the Manhattan triplex was recorded as 30,000 square feet in Trump’s financial records, according to James’ office. According to the AG’s office, the flat was appraised at $327 million in 2015, more than three times the value of the most expensive apartment ever sold in New York City.
The core argument of the civil complaint that New York Attorney General Letitia James brought was that Trump and his co-defendants unlawfully misrepresented the worth of real estate properties and other important assets. The verdict found them liable for this claim.
According to Monday’s ruling by Engoron, the defendants had been denied a directed verdict in each of the five previous efforts.
In a long comment on Truth Social, Trump strongly criticized Engoron’s most recent verdict. He restated many of his previous arguments supporting the financial records, including the assertion that his Mar-a-Lago resort house in Palm Beach is worth as much as $1.8 billion.
In response to Engoron’s comments, Trump also backed Bartov.
According to Trump, “Judge Engoron challenges the highly respected Expert Witness for receiving fees,” a common and well-accepted procedure for such professionals. The uninformed judge completely ignored the expert witness. An individual of this man’s immaculate character and credentials has been greatly insulted.
Engoron implied that financial incentives influenced Bartov, but Bartov denied it. He said that the charge was irrelevant.
During his trial evidence and a summer deposition, the professor stated that he was being paid $1,350 per hour for his work with the defense.
He claimed to have worked 650 billable hours on the evidence, which translated to $877,500 in pay.
A portion of those expenses, he said, had been covered by the Trump Organization, while Save America had covered the remainder, the political action committee that was supporting Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy.
According to Bartov’s interview with CNBC, he had used the same hourly rate in previous cases and felt he was “very efficient” in this one as he did not have the assistance of a consulting business.
James’ other allegations of wrongdoing against Trump, his adult sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as the Trump Organization and its senior executives, were resolved during the ten-and-a-half week trial that was conducted to ascertain damages.
James is suing Trump and his sons for $250 million, and he also wants to permanently ban them from running any other businesses in New York.
On January 11, closing arguments will be presented by the parties.