Former President and 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial has taken another twist after Judge Arthur Engoron raised serious concerns about the credibility of a key defense witness, New York University Accounting Professor Eli Bartov.
According to a report by CNBC News on Monday, December 18, Bartov, who received a substantial fee of nearly $900,000 for his expert testimony, faced skepticism from the judge, who, in a Monday evening ruling, denied the defendants’ latest request for a directed verdict in the $250 million case.
Judge Engoron didn’t mince words in his three-page ruling, questioning the impartiality of Professor Bartov due to the significant payment he received.
The judge asserted that Bartov’s testimony seemed influenced by the substantial fee, stating, “Bartov is a tenured professor, but all that his testimony proves is that for a million or so dollars, some experts will say whatever you want them to say.”
One of the central points of Bartov’s testimony was the assertion that the financial statements at the heart of the case were accurate in every respect.
However, Judge Engoron contradicted this, emphasizing that he had previously found numerous obvious errors in the financial records before the trial began.
Engoron accused Bartov of losing credibility by attempting to justify every misstatement in the records.
Bartov, in response to the judge’s remarks, expressed shock at the mischaracterization of his testimony.
He defended his position, stating that while he acknowledged errors in the financial statements, such as the valuation of Trump’s triplex apartment in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, he deemed them inadvertent rather than fraudulent.
The case revolves around allegations brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, accusing Trump and his co-defendants of fraudulently misstating the values of real estate properties and other key assets.
An earlier ruling found Trump liable for such misstatements, including the Manhattan triplex being reported as 30,000 square feet, nearly three times its actual size, and valued at $327 million in 2015.
Judge Engoron’s skepticism about the expert witness’s credibility adds another layer of complexity to an already contentious trial.
The judge’s assertion that Bartov’s testimony may be swayed by his substantial payment underscores the challenges of relying on paid experts in legal proceedings.
The tension between the defense’s insistence on the accuracy of their expert’s testimony and the judge’s prior findings of errors in the financial records creates a legal battleground where credibility is at the forefront of the dispute.