“Thank you, your honor”
Following stories in many other outlets suggesting that the reason Trump was getting a bench trial rather than a jury trial in his business fraud case was due to a blunder of not formally asking for a jury, Daily Kos’s Mark Sumner penned a well-received article titled ”Trump’s no-jury trial is either a hilarious screwup or a cynical strategy.”
But yesterday, Judge Engoron reiterated what he had already said on the first day of the trial — that this type of case must be decided by a judge:
"It would not have helped to make a motion. Nobody forgot to check off a box," Engoron said.
Engoron said the punishment being sought by the state is an "equitable" remedy, as opposed to a "legal" remedy.
A legal remedy is an award for damages, which can be determined by a jury. ...
In the ongoing New York fraud case, the state is seeking $250 million in disgorgement, a kind of equitable remedy that is a clawback of ill-gotten gains — the amount of benefit that the state says Trump and the co-defendants personally received from alleged fraud. Authorities cannot ask a jury to make that kind of calculation.
"That leaves it up to the judge," Engoron said.
Engoron earned the gratitude of one Trump lawyer who has insisted the lack of a jury was not due to an oversight.
"I would like to say thank you, your honor," said attorney Alina Habba, before turning to reporters in the gallery. "Press, did you hear that? I didn't forget to check the box."
Understandably, no lawyer would want to be ridiculed for recognizing and following standard procedure. Still, it’s a strange sort of victory when you find yourself crowing to the press that of course you didn’t ask for a jury because your client — the one who’s been whining about not being entitled to a jury in this trial — is, in fact, not entitled to a jury in this trial.