- The $10Ka per day contempt of court fine Donald Trump owes NY AG Letitia James hit $100K on Thursday.
- The fines will continue to rise until Trump signs what is called a “Jackson affidavit.”
- The affidavit is named after Christophena Jackson, who fell down a South Bronx staircase in 1984.
On Thursday, the $10,000 per day contempt of court fine that former President Donald Trump owes New York Attorney General Letitia James hit the $100,000 mark.
The fine is Trump’s penalty for failing to comply with the AG’s subpoena for his personal business documents, and it will continue to mount each day, piling up even on weekends, until he hands a Manhattan judge something called “Jackson’s affidavit.” “.
So what is a Jackson affidavit? And why is it taking so long? And who was this Jackson, anyway?
Requiring Trump to swear to an affidavit from Jackson, New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron ordered the former president to sign an explanation in the first person, under oath, describing in detail why his search for the business documents personals that James wants has turned out to be completely empty. .
“I want to know who did these searches,” the judge said in explaining why a one-page affidavit Trump provided last week was woefully inadequate. “When did they look? What were they looking for?”
Jackson’s first affidavit
The story of Jackson’s affidavit, so critical to what happens next in the AG’s investigation of Trump’s dealings, goes back nearly 40 years.
It’s a story that began when a woman named Christophena Jackson was nearly swallowed alive by the crumbling staircase of her apartment building in the South Bronx.
It was around 3:30 p.m. on October 11, 1984. Jackson, 64, was walking down the stairs of his New York City-owned building at 970 Prospect Avenue.
Somewhere between the second and third floors, one of the marble steps gave way when she put her foot on it.
“When I stepped on one of the steps of the ladder, he collapsed,” he said in a statement. “And I fell through the hole where the step had been before it collapsed.
“I held on to the window to keep him from going up to the second floor.”
It turned out that the entire building was in such disrepair that the city quickly condemned it and removed it from all tenants.
No records, little explanation
Jackson was also in poor shape, with permanent injuries to his back, neck, arm and leg, his attorneys said.
But when he sued the city for $500,000 in 1987, three years after his fall, the city’s attorneys did everything the attorney general now accuses Trump of doing.
They were delayed. According to the case file, the city rescheduled statements from city workers who might know the location of important maintenance and inspection records.
They got sidetracked. The city countersued a contractor, saying they were the ones maintaining the building and had the records. In fact, the contractor only handled the building’s maintenance workers’ payroll, not their records, a red herring that cost years of trial.
And when the city absolutely had to explain why they had no inspection and maintenance records to give Jackson’s attorney, they submitted a similarly concisely worded affidavit, only three paragraphs long. (Read the original “Jackson affidavit” here.)
Facing a lack of records and scant explanation, Jackson’s attorneys took the case to the Manhattan-based appeals court, the same court that now handles appeals of Trump’s contempt order.
The court ruled that the city should be penalized for failing to say “where the records in question were likely to be kept, what efforts, if any, were made to preserve them, whether such records were routinely destroyed, or whether a search was conducted.” “. in all places where the records were likely to be found.”
Read the 1992 appeal decision between Jackson and the City of New York here.
The court-ordered penalty was as follows: If the case goes to trial, jurors will be instructed to assume the city knew about the dilapidated stairs and did nothing to fix them, according to the decision. The city would be prohibited from countering that.
Not surprisingly, the city settled the case shortly after the appeal decision, for an undisclosed sum.
And since 1992, the decision has become New York case law, cited dozens of times in motions and decisions when individuals and businesses fail to turn over subpoenaed records.
What’s next for Trump?
Trump has a couple more chances for the AG fines to stop.
The Manhattan judge who held Trump in contempt and set the fine, New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, has hinted that he may end the daily sentence at some point, without an affidavit from Jackson. , although he told Trump’s lawyer on Friday, “if you don’t hear from me, it’s still in effect.”
Trump may also hope that a panel of appellate judges in Manhattan will freeze the fine while he appeals the contempt order; so far, the only appeals judge to consider the matter declined to do so in a ruling Tuesday.
But Trump’s best chance to stop the ticket remains to produce an affidavit from Jackson, named after that woman injured in the South Bronx.
Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, did not respond when asked by email how the affidavit was coming along. So why Trump would rather keep paying $10,000 a day than swear one in remains a mystery?
“Maybe he just doesn’t want to and doesn’t feel like he has to,” said Marc Frazier Scholl, a former lead investigating attorney with the Manhattan district attorney’s office who has been following the attorney general’s case.
As for the escalating fine, “it clearly doesn’t make sense to him,” said Scholl, a white-collar crime expert who now works for Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss in Manhattan.
“Because it hasn’t happened,” Scholl continued. “It’s an account. It doesn’t exist. It’s an incipient obligation that, right now, no one is collecting.”