Former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano told Newsmax on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump's New York legal team didn't forget to check a box that would have entitled them to a jury trial for his fraud case instead of a bench trial.
"They didn't make a mistake because they didn't have the option," Napolitano said during an appearance on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "The statute under which the attorney general sued does not provide for a jury trial, even if both sides want one. So, in this case, you're stuck with whoever the judge is, and the judge is effectively judge and jury.
"When you have a jury trial, the jury decides the facts; the judge rules on the law. When there's no jury, the judge both decides the facts and rules on the law."
He continued: "He has already ruled on the law on the basis of the documents and the legal arguments that were submitted to him in the past year and a half, and that ruling was that the defendants did commit fraud, and he pulled their licenses to engage in real estate transactions in New York City.
"The only issue remaining in the trial is how much money, if any, does the Trump Organization have to disgorge and pay over to the state."
It had been previously reported that Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over Trump's New York fraud case, said the former president's legal team did not indicate they preferred a trial by jury.
On Monday, Trump began the first day of his fraud trial by raging against Engoron and calling him "an operative" who should be disbarred. Hours later, however, the former president had high praise for the judge, saying his conduct in "the last five minutes was outstanding."
"The judge's last statement was very fair," Trump told waiting journalists outside the courtroom. "The way I interpret that ... the statute of limitations is a very real thing in this country, and that would mean 80% of this case would be over."
Engoron questioned New York Attorney General Letitia James' office on the use of documents from 2011, which fell outside the statute of limitations.
James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York, in a case the former president has called "election interference."
Napolitano said he doesn't think the case is "election interference," but said he thinks Trump "is making the most of it."
"If you have lemon, turn it into lemonade, and he is succeeding in doing that, with his commentary before, during, and after the day's events in the courtroom, quite properly outside the courthouse or in the hallway," he said. "The press is focused on his observations, many of which are ringing true with voters."
Trump is currently the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, with national polling showing the former president leading the GOP field by double-digit margins despite his legal woes.
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Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.
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